News

Don’t Miss the National Book Festival 2020

Hello Book Lovers!!

Just a quick note this week to make sure you don’t miss out on the Library of Congress’s FREE event this weekend…

The National Book Festival of 2020

(finally, something good about this year)

All you have to do is visit the link above, then enter your name and email and you’re registered to virtually attend a gobsmacking amount of lectures about historic books, about book preservation, about books books books.

There’s also discussions on other aspects of the LOC, plus loads of live author chats including John Grisham, Kwame Mbalia, Thomas Frank, Sarah Scoles, and oodles more!

The festival starts Friday (25 September) and runs through Sunday the 27th. Once you sign up, you’re free to pick and choose as many or as few programs that interest you.

Have a great book-filled weekend!!!

And if you missed out on Agatha Christie hanging ten last week, be sure to give Episode 12 a listen.

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If you’re looking for something unforgettable to read this weekend, try this…..

Literacy

Happy World Literacy Day

Hello Book Nerds!

I know it’s not the Book Owl’s usual posting day, but I just wanted to share the excitement of World Literacy Day with you!

So what’s the day all about? Well, the fine folks over at Wikipedia have this to say…

“8 September was declared international literacy day by UNESCO on 26 October 1966 at 14th session of UNESCO’s General conference. It was celebrated for the first time in 1967. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.”

And since I (aka “The Book Owl”) love being able to read and think reading is one of the best pastimes EVER, I wanted to celebrate by sharing a couple podcast episodes in which I cover a little bit of literacy, the importance of being a reader, and the strange historical course of inventions that help keep people reading to this very day.

The first is Episode 3 in which the Book Owl delves into that age-old question, the quandary that has stumped philosophers and scientists for centuries, the issue I’m sure has been keeping you up at night….

Do dogs know how to read?

Spoiler alert…no, they don’t, but they can listen which is why our canine buddies are regularly invited into libraries to help build better readers. How does this work? Who came up with the idea? How can you get involved? Find out in Episode 3: Is That A Dog in the Library?!!

Note: I was still getting the hang of things with Episode 3, so the sound quality isn’t the best, but it’s still worth a listen.

Then we have Episode 8: The Story of Seeing Clearly in which I take a peek at the amazing combination of historical events that turned eyeglasses from a luxury item used only by the wealthy to a household commodity (and requisite accessory for many readers…including myself).

From imprisoned Venetians to curing syphilis, the history of eyeglasses is more intriguing than it might seem at first glance (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Those show links will take you to the episode’s listening page where you’ll also find links to the show’s transcript, in case you know, you wanted to actually read on World Literacy Day!

Enjoy!!!!

Having Fun, podcast

10 Silly Ways to Tell If You’re a Book Nerd (also, the Movie-to-Book Debate)

Hello Book Nerds!

We’re having some anniversary fun this time with a quick quiz to test how big of a book nerd you really are, and a top ten list that might be utter blasphemy to die hard book nerds…Ten Movies That Are Better Than the Books They Were Based On.

Plus…I’ve got a special announcement!

Behind the Scenes

There’s not much behind-the-scenes news for my tenth episode. I’ll explain this more in the episode, but reaching ten epodes is a fairly proud moment in the podcasting world.

After reaching this little milestone, I knew I wanted to have some fun and I figured it should involve some sort of top ten list.

Well, I did indeed have fun and I came up with not one, but TWO top ten lists. The first is a series of silly questions to determine how big of a book nerd you really are (and my answers).

Then I spread a little book nerd blasphemy by delving into Book Riot’s list of movies that are (supposedly) better than the books they were based on. Do I agree with Book Riot’s choices? Find out in this fun-filled, sometimes-emotionally-charged episode!!

One note: There were a lot of great responses to Episode 9!! I promised to share a few of those responses, but since I recorded Episode 10 before I released Episode 9, I won’t get around to sharing them until Episode 11.

Enjoy!!!

As usual, clicking the image below will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen right in your browser, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. And remember, all these listening options are completely free!!

 

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

Apple (iTunes)
Kobo
Barnes & Noble
Chirp
Audiobooks.com
Or just search for “Tammie Painter” on your favorite audiobook site

The (Rough) Transcript

(Note: The titles of books/movies below are affiliate links. If you click on them before doing any Amazon shopping, I get a teeny tiny commission. It costs you NOTHING extra and helps support this show…Thanks!!!)

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

And guess, what? We’ve made it to episode 10! I’m probably more excited about this than you because when I was learning about podcasting, the stats said most shows give up before they even reach ten episodes. So hey, I’ve beaten the odds.

Anyway, in this episode we’re just going to have a little fun with embracing our inner book nerd with a little personality quiz and a top ten list. 

But before we start, I have a special announcement: I have an audiobook! That’s right, if you just can’t get enough of my voice, you can now get more of it in fiction format. Okay, so this isn’t a full novel…I’m not that ambitious. It’s one of my short stories, A Case of Mamma’s Love, and it’s only about 20 minutes long, so I’ve priced it pretty low. The story took second place in a writing contest from the American PEN Women last year and it’s been published in an anthology by Overland Press, so you know, it’s proven its mettle. Anyway, it’s a quick tale of magical realism and I had fun putting on a southern accent to get into character. Of course, if you’re not into audiobooks, it’s also available as an ebook. Oh, and if you buy the audiobook from my online shop, you’ll get the ebook version for free. And as ever, I’ll have all the links you need in the show notes, if you’re interested in giving it a look…and a listen.

Okay, onto the episode.

Since it’s episode 10, I thought it was only appropriate we do something like a top ten list. And since we’re all crazy about books here, I’ve come up with my own Top Ten Ways to Determine if You or Someone You Know is a Book Nerd…you know, just in case you were wondering. Okay, if you want to keep score, get a pencil and scrap of paper handy because here we go.

So, the first way to determine if you’re a book nerd: you remember the title of the first book you ever read. Do you remember yours? Mine was Are You My Mother by Dr. Suess and I remember sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, picking up the book, and reading it out loud to my mom. I’m not even sure if she knew I knew how to read.

Two, you sometimes forget your real friends’ names and accidentally call them by the name of your favorite fictional characters. So far, I’ve managed not to do this, but I don’t have any real friends, so I guess that helps.

Three, you have trouble closing your suitcase at the end of vacation because you’ve bought so many books while on your trip. I am very guilty of this one. I’ve also mapped out the bookstores near where I’m staying when I travel. So yeah, I think I get double points for that one.

Four, you could map out your favorite bookstore or library from memory. Um, that’s a yes for me. I can picture the exact layouts of public libraries from my childhood, school libraries from my teens, and I can whip my way around the maze of Powell’s Books like a pro.

Five, you aren’t sure if that’s a wall or just a stack of books you’ve brought home from the library. Okay, I haven’t had this problem, but it sounds like something to aspire to.

Six, you have, for a few seconds at least, thought having more than one head would be wonderful because then you could read two books at once. I hadn’t thought this until I started writing this, but now that I think of it…where’s a mad scientist when you need one?

Seven, if there isn’t a book handy, you will read anything at hand that has words on it. Um, yep, that’s me, and I can highly recommend the backs of cereal boxes.

Eight, you’ve stopped reading just before a favorite character might die because you honestly think you’ll save that character’s life is you don’t read about his death. What? That doesn’t work? 

Nine, you have imagined a date night with a fictional character. For me, not so much in waking life, but I do think I’ve dreamed about hanging out with a fictional character. My poor brain.

Ten, you’re the person everyone hates when a book is made into a movie because you can’t help but comment on how the book is different…and by different, you mean better. Okay, I might not be that bad, but when the Red Wedding scene in Game of Thrones came out and shocked everyone, I was one of those people saying, “It’s been in the book for AGES, why are you surprised?!” Okay, maybe that makes me more of a book snob than book nerd, but I’ll take it.

 

So how did you do? Looks like I scored 7 out of 10, which I think puts me solidly into book nerd territory. And of course, I want to know what your scores are, so if you get a chance, drop me a line using the contact info in the show notes and I will share your results with the world in a future episode.

But the Top Ten’s aren’t quite done. That last book nerd requirement got me wondering about what movies are better than the books they were based on. And for this I turned to Book Riot. And that gang of book lovers came up with…

  1. I Am Legend by RICHARD MATHESON – I absolutely agree. I just recently read the novella and it was so, so, so boring. Skip the book, and head straight to the movie on this one. Plus, it’’s got Will Smith. And you can’t go wrong with Will Smith.
  2. Remains of the Day by KAZUO ISHIGURO – Definitely, and not just because I love both Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. The movie is engaging, the book, well, the book is so dry, you might end up with dehydration halfway through.
  3. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – I don’t agree with this one. I mean I love the movie, but the book lends a different perspective to and enhances the story in a way that shouldn’t be missed.
  4. The Princess Bride by William Goldman – What?! Okay, again, I could watch this movie every day for the rest of my life, but to say it’s better than the book? No, no, no, both are equally superb. And both feature rodents of unusual size. And don’t get me started on the rumors of them remaking that movie, because it’s just pure blasphemy. Okay, we better move on.
  5. The English Patient by MICHAEL ONDAATJE – Oh yeah, I agree with this one wholeheartedly. I liked the book. It’s got some lovely language in it, but OMG the ending? No, no, no!! I’m not going to spoil it, just in case you haven’t read it, but the movie ending is SO much better. Sorry, anyway, all the relationships are portrayed so much better in the movie than in the book. In the book there’s no chemistry and everyone just kind of seems to be in each other’s way. Okay, I’m getting a bit emotional here.
  6. Jaws by PETER BENCHLEY – Yeah, gotta agree on this one. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through the book, but the movie is a great bit of shark-y fun.
  7. Jurassic Park by MICHAEL CRICHTON – Oh, I hate to say this because I love Michael Crichton, but I gotta agree with this one. So a local theater had a showing of Jurassic Park a few years ago and I forgot how much I loved that movie and so I thought Oh, I should re-read the book. Mistake. The book is just long and really dull in places and just doesn’t have that punchy pace like the movie. Okay, now that I’ve insulted a dead guy…
  8. Forrest Gump by Winston Groom – Again, boring book, pretty good movie.
  9. Stand by Me by Stephen King – Most movies created from Stephen King books just seem to fall flat, they just don’t work. I mean the Shining and Misery were pretty good, but Stand by Me is an exception that just takes the cake. The short story is good, but you get so much more of a feel for the time period, and the emotions, and the characters in the movie.
  10. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – Another one where I disagree. They’re both great!! The book is far more wicked than the movie, but I love both of them.

Any thoughts on that list?  Do you have a movie that has forced you to admit the show was better than the book? Come on, it’s okay, if you do. Even the strongest book nerds have their weak spots.

Alright my book-y friends, that is it for this anniversary episode. Have fun tallying your scores and don’t forget to let me know where your Book Nerd status stands after taking that test. You can use the link in the show notes to get in touch or just head to the book owl podcast dot com slash contact.

Okay, update time. As for the podcast, remember back in episode 2 or 3 when I said I was going to do episodes every other week, then eventually move to once a week. Well, I’ve decided the biweekly format works for me. It’s easy to stay on top of things without feeling like I’m chasing my tail. Wait, when did I grow a tail? Anyway, so the update, really isn’t an update, it’s just letting you know I’m sticking with putting out an episode every other week.

As for writing, this month I’m doing an intense rewrite of the second book in my Cassie Black series. I’m still toying with whether I want to put out book one this year or wait until next year, but I have decided to pretty much devote most of my time over the rest of this year, the Horrible 2020, to getting the trilogy done and ready for publication. That means scaling back on a few other writing and marketing tasks, but I’m at the point where I’m eager to see this series wrapped up and ready for the world. So, now that I’ve said that, I better get my nose to the grindstone…ow.

Okay, that’s it for me, thank you so much for listening, be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, and don’t forget to check out my little audio story. Have a great rest of your week, and I will hoot at you next time when we’ll be going very international by heading to Ireland to learn about an American who was gaga for Asian books and who had a tiff with the British Museum.

That’s it. Thanks guys.

The book owl podcast is a production of daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

***

Looking for something new to read?

Click the image below to discover dozens of stories that put a new twist on old legends!

libraries, podcast

The Story of the Bookmobile: From Perambulators to Pack Animals

Hello Book Nerds!

It’s Episode 9 and while sweet tooths may think the ice cream truck is the best vehicle ever invented, we book nerds know they’re wrong because the Bookmobile can’t be beat.

In this episode we journey from the first traveling libraries all the way to clever ways people today are ensuring everyone gets a chance to fall in love with books.

Behind the Scenes

As mentioned in the episode, I’ve been a book nerd ever since I was a little kid and I LOVED it when the Bookmobile would pull up to my school.

But since Bookmobiles rarely trundle their way through the city these days, I hadn’t given them much thought until I started flipping through Jane Mount’s book for book nerds, Bibliophile.

In one section she shows off a few ways people around the world are getting their books beyond libraries and bookstores. That got the wheels turning in my brain and made me curious to learn how the Bookmobile started.

I discovered several things I never knew about my beloved Bookmobile and, if you’re a book nerd at heart, you’re going to love this episode.

Enjoy!!!

As usual, clicking the image below will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen right in your browser, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. And remember, all these listening options are completely free!!

 

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

Images…

I usually save images as bonuses for my newsletter subscribers, but since they’re getting something extra special this time around, I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos related to the episode.

Of course, if you’d like to join the flock and get regular bonus tidbits, be sure to sign up today to get the Book Owl in your inbox every other week.

bookmobile, portland oregon, multnomah county
This model was a little before my day, but here’s one of the old Multnomah County Bookmobiles. Image from the Multnomah County Library.

 

It’s the Biblioburro! And there’s Luis in the yellow shirt. Image from Wikipedia.

The (Rough) Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

It’s episode 9 and while people with a sweet tooth may think the ice cream truck is the best vehicle ever invented, us book nerds know they’re wrong. 

Before we start, a couple quick business matters. So first, right now, or as soon as you safely can, be sure to click that subscribe button in whatever podcast app you’re listening in, or if you’re watching this on YouTube, well there’s a subscribe button right under the video eagerly waiting for your click. It’s super simple and ensures you won’t miss a single episode. Plus, it makes me happy.

The second business-y matter would not only make me happy, but it could make you Book Owl famous (which is nothing like being truly famous, sorry). If you have a topic you’d like covered in the show, all you have to do is send me a message using the contact link you’ll find in the episode notes. So if there’s a bookstore, author, or book you’re curious about but you’re too lazy to do the research yourself, toss those quandaries my way and I’ll do the research for you. And I’ll mention you in the episode as a way to say thanks.

Okay, that’s enough business, because what do I see coming up the road? Yes! It’s the BookMobile. 

So at its heart, the Bookmobile is a way to bring library books to people who live where it’s hard to get to a library, such as rural areas, or to bring books to people who might have a tough time getting out, such as residents of senior homes. But as a kid I have fond memories of the Bookmobile trundling up to the school. 

Now, keep in mind, I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and no matter where you lived, you had easy access to one of the branches of the Multnomah County library system. But I guess the library wanted to spark kids’ interest in reading and so every now and then (never often enough in my opinion), the this big sort of acid green BookMobile truck would appear. And sometimes I was the only kid in there…and sometimes they’d have to ask me to leave so they could go on to their next stop. Seriously, I’ve always been a book nerd.

Anyway, the bookmobile goes by a gob of different names such as the traveling library, the book wagon, the book truck, the book auto service (which has to be the worst), and the library on wheels (which is now my favorite). And as we’ll see later, the bookmobile isn’t just limited to four-wheeled things with engines. Book nerds are out spreading their book nerd ways via donkey, camel, hand-wheeled cart, and more.

But how did this start? The short answer…I don’t know. Books and scrolls have been transported between libraries pretty much since libraries began, but these transfers were mainly to bring the items for scholarly study, not for sharing with the masses. However, I can imagine that as books became less expensive and easier to make, and as literacy rates increased, that there were probably people carrying around books to loan out to others.

Of course, that’s just my guess. The first system that was a sort of prototype bookmobile came about in 1839, when the American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (which totally sounds like a creepy organization from a George Orwell story) created the American Library School which wasn’t actually a school, it was a set of fifty books that cost $20, which is about $580 in 2020 dollars. 

The set included books on history, biographies, a novel (yes, one novel), health, science, Christianity, travel memoirs, and more. These sets came in a wooden case and were intended for schools to have a set course curriculum that could be followed country wide, but they were also carted around the frontier lands as a traveling library. And if you ever make it to the Smithsonian Museums, you can see the only complete set in its original box.

But we have to wait until 1857 and we have to jump the pond over to England to find the next evidence of an early Bookmobile. This one had the perfectly British name of a Perambulating Library and it could be found perambulating a circuit through eight villages in Cumbria in northwestern England. The idea was sponsored by a philanthropist by the name of George Moore who, as would later be the mission of the modern Bookmobile, wanted to spread the written word to rural populations. And, based on other perambulating libraries around this time, I’m going to guess that George’s books were pulled by horse or some other cooperative four-legged animal, although he could have had people walking with them.

Okay, now we’re zipping back across the pond because in the early 1900s, we start to see the first true traveling libraries popping up in the U.S. 

One of the first was started by a librarian from Maryland named Mary Titcomb (insert childish joke of your choice). So her library wasn’t exactly a library. It was basically a box of books that were left at 23 public locations such as the post office or grocery stores for people to borrow from. Well, Mary realized this didn’t do much good for the people who didn’t come into to town regularly, so she arranged for a book wagon to take reading material directly to people’s homes. And I like to think that any fines were probably paid in apples for the horses who drew the wagon.

Of course, in the US most of our Bookmobiles now come around on four wheels instead of four legs. The first motor-powered bookmobile came about in 1920. Yet again, we have a librarian to thank for her ingenuity because Sarah Askew redesigned her Model T and started driving books around rural areas of New Jersey.

But our four-legged friends weren’t out of work yet. After the Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the WPA, began the Pack Horse Project. This ran from 1935 to 1943 and used pack animals to bring books and a few other necessities into the deepest parts of the mountains of Kentucky and the Appalachia area. Known as packhorse librarians, these folks were sometimes the only outside contact for the insular mountain residents.

But as we saw at the beginning, bookmobiles weren’t limited to bringing books to rural areas. In the 1960s, in the Bronx, an interracial team of librarians started the Library in Action program to bring books to kids of color who may not have had access to books or libraries otherwise.

Have I mentioned how cool the bookmobile program is??

Anyway, the Bookmobile programs reached their height in the US in the 1950s to 1970s, when there were well over 1000 vehicles bringing books to kids and adults. These days there’s only about 600 of them left. It’s not that people don’t still love the idea, but budget cuts, easy access to online resources, and environmental concerns are eating away at the bookmobile. However, there may be hope for our beloved BookTruck. New ones are being outfitted with solar powered batteries and hybrid engines. 

And hey, we still have a National Bookmobile Day every April, so maybe there’s still hope for the Bookmobile.

Or perhaps we need to think outside the four-wheeled box on this one because as I mentioned earlier, there are many ways people around the world are getting books to people. And for this next bit, I have to give thanks to Jane Mount’s book Bilibophile.

If you don’t want four wheels, maybe you prefer three. The Il Bibliomotocarro is a three-wheeled book truck driven by former schoolteacher Antonio La Cava. He fills it with books and drives 300 miles each week to bring reading material to kids in southern Italy. Or maybe you prefer to go back to our four-legged friends. Well, in Colombia there’s the Biblioburro that was started by another schoolteacher. Luis Soriano was feeling a bit down that his students didn’t have books at home, so now he and his two donkeys Alfa and Beta bring books to them. In Kenya and Mongolia, you can find camels doing the same thing…although they’re probably a bit grumpier about it. Or perhaps you just want to keep your feet on the ground and get your 10,000 steps in. Well, you can make like Martin Murillo, again of Colombia, who loves reading so much, he brings books to one and all with his La Carreta Literaria. And if you’re feet get tired, do as Martin does and stop to read the kids a story.

Okay, that’s it for the Bookmobile. 

And now I’m tossing it over to you. Do you have memories of the Bookmobile? Does your area still have bookmobiles? I want to hear from you, so be sure to use that contact info in the show notes to drop me a line. And who knows, if I need to fill up some audio space, I might just read your comment in a future episode. Oh, and those of you who are signed up for The Book Owl newsletter are going to get a link to some great images of historic bookmobiles from around the world, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Again, that’s it for the show, which means it’s time for updates. If you’re done, thanks so much for listening. If not, here we go.

I don’t really have any podcast news other than the next episode is number 10 and I’ve got something fun lined up for that one. As I mentioned in the newsletter and the blog last time, I’ve updated all the old episodes as best I could to improve the sound quality. They’re still not perfect, but they are better. 

As for writing. There’s a lot of news coming up in this realm of my creative life. From release dates, to audiobooks, to learning some new tricks, I could fill up a whole hour just covering it all. But instead of doing that, if you’re interested, I’m just going to encourage you to either follow my writing blog or to sign up for my writing newsletter (you’ll get a free story if you do), and surprise surprise those links are in the show notes.

Okay everyone, that is it for this episode. Keep on truckin’ with the Bookmobile and I will hoot at you next time.

The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

***

Looking for something new to read?

Click the image below to discover dozens of stories that put a new twist on old legends!

libraries, podcast

The British Library Birthday Bash

Hello Book Nerds!

It’s Episode 7 and this time I’m taking you on a wander through the stacks of the world’s largest library…and quite possibly the deepest one. So grab your library cards and your book bag and your passports if you’re outside the UK because it’s time to head to the British Library.

Behind the Scenes

There’s not much behind the scenes information for this episode. I selected the topic because, as you might have guessed from the post title, July is the month when the British Library was officially founded in 1973.

I visited the library during my second trip to London and did my fair share of drooling over the book nerd treasure trove in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, which you’ll learn about in this episode. After recording this episode, I’m eager to visit again because I had no idea of the treasure trove hidden behind the smoky glass tower!

Alright, that’s it, let’s get on with the birthday celebrations!

Clicking the image will take you to the episode’s web page where you can listen, or you can use the links just under the image to find plenty of other listening options. If you’d like to read along, a rough transcript is a bit lower down.

Listening links…

Links mentioned…

Images…

I usually save images as bonuses for my newsletter subscribers, but since they’re getting something extra special this time around, I thought I’d include photos with this post to help give you a better idea of a few things mentioned in Episode 7.

Of course, if you’d like to join the flock and get regular bonus tidbits, be sure to sign up today to get the Book Owl in your inbox every other week.

The round structure at left is the Reading Room of the British Museum and was the former home of the British Library. Photo by me.
St.Pancras Station (the brick facade influenced the design of the library). Photo by me.
Exterior of the British Library with Isaac Newton at left. Photo by Jack1956, public domain.
British Library interior. The smoky glass protects George III’s King’s Library. Photo credit to Andrew Dunn, Creative commons license http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/

The (Rough) Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore.

It’s episode 7 and this time I’m taking you on a wander through the stacks of the world’s largest library and quite possibly the deepest one.

This is a slightly longer episode so rather than go on about supporting the Book Owl with your hard earned cash, I’m just going to ask you to show your support by making sure you hit that subscribe button on your favorite listening app, by giving the podcast a review, or by sharing the podcast with one other person. And once again, Tierney of TierneyCreates and Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties have been superstars by mentioning the podcast on their blogs over the past few weeks.

Alright grab your library cards and your book bag and your passports if you’re outside the UK because it’s time to head to the British Library.

So remember at the start how I said this was the largest library. I lied. Square footage wise it may bot be, but it is the largest by collection. I don’t want to overwhelm you with numbers but this is going to be a very “Wow that’s a lot!” episode and that’s going to involve spouting some digits.

The collection, well it’s hard to pinpoint but estimates put it at 170 to 200 million items and that includes some 13 million books. I’ll let you book nerds drool over that for a sec, historical artifacts, and other media. To put the collection into perspective, Time Out magazine has calculated that if you looked at five items a day every day, it would take you 8000 years to see everything.

Now I don’t know about you but I tend to view way more than five items whenever I go to the library so I bet I could knock that down to 2000 years no problem.

But as we’ll find out, it’s not going to be easy to see the entire collection because it’s growing by leaps and bounds every single day.

I’ll get into some more numbers in a bit, but right now let’s wander back few years and explore the history of the library and a little bit about what makes the library special today.

So as I’m recording this, I’ve just turned the calendar page to July. And that’s the reason I chose this topic. Because the British Library was founded in July 1973. Now, the concept of libraries in England dates back centuries, but these were mostly private libraries whose owners allowed people to make use of their collections and could be pretty restrictive as you can imagine in such stratified society. It wouldn’t be until the 1850s when a truly public library would open.

But that’s a whole different topic and I’m going to steer you back to the founding of the British Library. So 1973, as far as British institutions go that doesn’t seem terribly old, but prior to this, the library had simply part of the British Museum since the mid 1700s. It was housed in what’s called the Reading Room which if you’ve been to or have seen pictures of the main lobby of the British Museum the Reading Room is that big round room above the gift shops and I’ll add a picture of that to the episode webpage so you can see what I’m talking about if you’re not quite sure. And, as with any link mentioned, the link to that page will be in the show notes.

And it kind of made sense that the library would be part of the museum because some of the items the library held, which were mostly acquired by donation, were hundreds even thousands of years old. These donated items included the entirety of George II’s Old Royal Library and George III’s King’s Library. George III, by the way is the one who happened to lose those pesky American colonies. So lots of old stuff sort of like what you find a museum, right?

But the collection wasn’t just in the British Museum. It was spread out in a mish mash of items to various buildings across London. Then along came the UK’s Library Act of 1972 which made the collection its own entity and that became the British Library. Trouble was, there was no actual library building for the collection to go to, so the British Library remained in the British Museum for nearly 25 more years.

Talk about the slow pace of government.

So after a lot of head scratching and probably a bunch of committees, the first idea to get the library collection its own home was to level the blocks facing the British Museum which is in the Bloomsbury area of London. And the Bloomsbury area isn’t some derelict neighborhood with rundown structures that are half-toppling over and in need of demolition anyway. These buildings, some of them historic, are still used by scientific and literary societies, businesses, and residents. So as you can guess, this is not go over well and after much protesting led most strongly by George Wagner the planning committee went back to the think tank.

Eventually, they settled on a disused area near St. Pancras station, and in the late 1980s, designing and building began. The architect who won the job was prepare for very long British name Sir Colin Alexander Saint John Wilson, who was nicknamed Sandy because wow that’s a long name. Sandy designed a place with a brick facade that fit in perfectly with the red brick of St. Pancras Station. 

And, number time, about 10 million bricks went into creating what would be the largest public building built in the UK in the 20th century. Of course some of those bricks were used to build the library’s entry piazza where a very large statue of Isaac Newton hangs out with a few other sculptures.

So, with a building and a piazza in place, in 1997, it was finally time to start bringing the collection to its new home. Trucks began trundling between the British Museum and the British Library in October 1997. And trundling. And trundling. In June 1998 Queen Elizabeth got out her big old pair of scissors and cut the ribbon to officially open the doors, but it would take four years to move the entire collection.

And just as a side note, the Reading Room of the British Museum is still open but it’s used primarily as a research library. 

Okay so QEII has cut the ribbon and you’ve wandered in. The first thing that will draw your eyes, besides the wide open interior, would likely be a central, six-story tower of smoky glass behind which are thousands of items. 

What’s in there? Remember Georgi III’s donations? That’s what’s inside. The contents of the Kings Library includes 65,000 books and 19,000 other items like maps and pamphlets. The smoky glass helps protect these antique items from UV light while still allowing you to gape at a tower of book spines.

Within the library itself, if you could to wander every area of the stacks, you would walk past find over 246 km of shelving, which is about 150 miles, but you’d have trouble ever reaching the end because another with around 8 to 9 km, or 5 miles, of new shelf space is added every year.

So why do they need to keep adding all this shelf space?

Because the British Library is what’s called a legal deposit and, no that doesn’t mean that’s where legal documents are dropped off. It’s actually a concept that dates to 1610. And what it basically means is that the library gets a copy of every single book published in the UK and Ireland and was made official in the Copyright Act of 1911. And while researching his episode I found the library’s annual statement for 2018. In that year, through the legal deposit, they added about 300,000 new physical items, and 250,000 digital ones. That works out to about 1500 items being added each day. Which will tack on several more years if you’re only looking at five items a day as I mentioned earlier. As a perspective my local library adds about 30 to 40 items.

So even though what you see of the British Library is pretty big, it’s kind of like an iceberg where you only see a small bit. I told you it might be the deepest library, right? Well, that time I wasn’t because this place goes down eight stories below ground. 

This underground area is environmentally controlled with moveable, color-coded stacks of shelves. And what happens is if you want an item from there, you put in a request, a print out goes to an assistant who goes and hunts down your item, puts it in a little red box and then it travels along a portion of the 1.6 km of conveyor belts to get to the pick-up desk. And for my newsletter subscribers, among a couple other bonuses, I’m going to have a video that allows you to ride along the rails with one of those items. 

When you’re done with your book, it goes back along the conveyor belt and an assistant resolves it. On average these poor assistant’s pull 3000 items a day which makes my legs tired just thinking of the miles they must walk.

So the library has miles and miles of shelves, millions of books, it’s just a big library right? Wrong. Because the library’s collection houses some astounding treasures that you can see for free.

As I said the library has been collecting donations of materials for a couple hundred years, long before they were ever actually a library, so they’ve gotten some amazing manuscripts, documents, and other historically important printed items, which are put on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which is honestly a book nerd and history nerd paradise.

Now what’s on display does rotate to help preserve the items, but what you might see are things like, and keep in mind these are all originals, Captain Cook’s journals, song lyrics and letters from The Beatles (and no those aren’t from the two hundred year old donations), decrees signed by Elizabeth I – and if you’ve ever seen her signature on like book cover it really does have all those flourishes and everything and it’s really quite a signature. They also have copies of the Gutenberg Bible printed on Johannes Gutenberg’s press, they have two of the remaining copies of the Magna Cata from the year 1215, and they have the sole surviving copy of Beowulf. 

So all in all even if you you have no intention of doing anything at the library just going to that gallery is well worth making your way over to the building if you’re ever n London. 

But of course right now most of us can’t travel or aren’t willing to travel, but you can still visit the British Library. And I’ll have some links to these all on the show notes, but if you explore the library’s website, you’ll discover they have some unbeatable online resources. One of these is a sound library where you can listen to British accents from across the island. You can also click your way through several online exhibits including the history of writing the history of magic, and the history of mapmaking. 

But probably, the resource I could see losing the most time playing with is being able to head to their digitized manuscripts and flip through the pages of a few famous manuscripts. One of these is the St Cuthbert Gospels which if you’ve heard of the Book of Kells, which will be a topic on the podcast one day, you’ll be familiar with what an illuminated manuscripts is, and if you’re not, it’s a book, usually a bible on which the pages are decorated with brightly colored animals and intricate patterns. And even though the Book of Kells is probably the most famous of these, the St. Cuthbert Gospels, which were made in the early 700s, are actually about 80 years older. And thanks to the British Library and you can virtually turn page by page looking at it. If colorful bibles aren’t your thing, you can also browse the pages of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks from the early 1500s and try to read his backwards writing, look at his prototype helicopter, and ponder his many sketches. I believe the library’s website said they have they said they had 30,000 images of their various manuscripts, so that should keep you busy for a while. Maybe by then the travel ban will be over and you can go visit the books in person. 

So that’s it for the British Library or at least that’s all I’m going to cover it really does have some incredible displays so, when they re-open, if you can go I highly encourage you to do so. In the meantime enjoy those online resources,

As for my updates. First a bit of podcast news. I have been working on updating my old episodes and I know this is only episode seven, but I want to get this taken care of before things get out of hand. There’s a few of the earlier episodes that had some horrible horrible sound quality issues and, now that I’ve got a better handle on my editing software, I’m trying to fix them. I’ve just taken care of episode 3, so if you’ve listened to that and couldn’t get through it because of sound issues, try it again because it should be a little better. I’ll keep you updated with other improvements and I am constantly working at improving the sound quality of my recordings, but if you’ve noticed a sound issue, don’t be afraid to let me know using the contact info in the show notes, or by simply going to the book owl podcast dot com slash contact. 

As for my writing updates, well it’s July and I have jumped back into my Cassie Black trilogy with both feet. I’m working on Book One which was a bit of a decision process because I’d been originally thinking about getting Books 2 and 3 mostly done, then going back to Book One, but since Book One is so close to being done I think I just want to get through that and really hone that puppy to perfection, so I can put it out of my head. In June I also wrote a short story and I’ll be polishing that up this month as well. 

And speaking of stories if you want a free story from the Book Owl, there’s a link in the show notes to grab one. All you had to do is just click on that and enter your email address and you’ll get a free story sent right to your inbox. It’s a little gruesome, a little macabre, but it’s also a little bit funny so you might enjoy it and hey who doesn’t like free books.

Okay everyone, that is it for the show, and I will hoot at you next time.

The book owl podcast is a production fo daisy dog media, copyright 2020, all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod.

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