With just over a month to go until BOAMBF opens its doors once again, we continue our series of Q&A with the people behind the mini book festival. Last time we met author, Anna Wilson. This time it’s the all important librarian: Basil Nankivell. (In this dodgy looking bunch above, Basil is on the right.)
Who or what inspires you?
As a public librarian, I am inspired by our library visitors. Every day I meet lots of different people, and I love helping people find out what they want, discover that great book, get inspired by wonderful language and words, and realise how much of the world you can discover at your local library.
It goes without saying that you’re keen on books but have you ever aspired to write one yourself?
To my great disappointment, I don’t think I could write a book. As a librarian, I love reading books, discovering new worlds, exploring different characters, and learn loads about life from fiction, but I haven’t ever written anything myself.
How did you come to be involved with BOAMBF, and what does the festival mean to you?
As the librarian at Bradford Library, I was delighted to get involved right at the start. It is a wonderful project, getting together people who want to promote reading, books, the Summer Reading Challenge, local writers, and the library service.
What do you like about the Summer Reading Challenge?
I love hearing children get enthusiastic about the books they have read, but my favourite thing is hearing from parents who are delighted when their child discovers books for the first time, or suddenly ‘gets’ reading because of the summer reading challenge.
What will you be doing at the Festival?
I will be around all day, making sure everything runs smoothly. You will be able to spot me, as I will be wearing a purple shirt.
Do you ever do school visits or give other talks?
We librarians visit nearly every primary school in Wiltshire at least once a year. I love enthusing children with stories, poems and other wordgames. One of my favourite (pinched from Michael Rosen) is to say a word, cut the first letter off, say the new word, and continue. You can do it with any word, but some work brilliantly: SHAMPOO, hampoo, ampoo, m…poo, poo, oo….o(h). Words are endlessly fascinating!
I also give talks to adult groups, and I remember the first time I read out poetry. Very shyly, I started reading Daffodils by Wordsworth to a group in an old people’s home. The whole audience joined in. They had obviously all learnt it at school many years ago, and still knew all the words. It was very moving! On another occasion I had the after-lunch slot, when people are full up and a little drowsy. One person fell asleep and snored very loudly!
Who is your favourite author/illustrator?
I have many favourites, but I am inspired particularly by two fantastic children’s authors. I met Julia Donaldson when she visited Trowbridge Library, helping her act out What the Ladybird Heard (see photo), but her writing is wonderful. I had a vinyl disc of Derek Griffiths & Floella Benjamin from 1970’s show Play School, singing Squash and a Squeeze, and was delighted when it came out as a book 25 years later! Michael Rosen is the other wonderful writer and speaker. I have heard him talk twice, and his observations on family life are brilliant.
Can you give us a snapshot of your day?
No day is the same. We help people choose and borrow books, frequently help people on computers, but are always ready for the wide range of questions we get asked. My faviourite was when someone came in with a dead beetle in a matchbox. We helped him identify it using our reference books. We run a range of activities. I often read stories to groups of children, or sing rhymes at the weekly rhymetimes (though I have to negotiate with my colleagues, as a lot of us enjoy doing them!) We recently ran a Shakespeare event, which involved dressing up!
Tell us a joke
A man walks into a library and shouts “CAN I HAVE A BAG OF CHIPS PLEASE!” The librarian looks up, saying “Sorry, but this is a library”. “Oops,” says the man and he whispers “can I have a bag of chips please?”
Hah! Very fitting. Now, you’re the only librarian on the BOAMBF committee. So what’s it like working with a bunch of authors?
Lots of talking, creativity, ideas flowing with the coffee. Hilarious too!