Letters and Libraries

After a pep talk with Helen, my writing buddy, I’ve set myself some writing targets to get me through to the end of the year.

English: David Wilson Library, University of L...

English: David Wilson Library, University of Leicester (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of them is to write a letter a week for publication in a magazine. There are several benefits to this:

  • The satisfaction of something quickly written and submitted
  • Lots of potential markets – so hopefully the possibility of success
  • I will need to scan the magazines available in the newsagent and might spot new markets for other types of writing

I told Peter Hinchcliffe, editor of Open Writing, about my new goal and he suggested a further benefit of letter writing. Many years ago, as a young man, he was trying to break into journalism and started writing letters to his local newspaper every week, with a good ‘hit’ rate. Then he wrote and asked to join them for work experience – the editor recognised Peter’s name from the letters and he was taken on. A successful career in newspapers followed.

I don’t expect to land a job on a glossy magazine through the letters page – but occasionally letters can get followed up…

At the weekend I went with my daughter to Leicester University – she’ll be sending in her UCAS application for a Zoology degree in a few weeks time. Whilst we were there we went round the David Wilson Library (pictured). It is a wonderful, light, airy building, opened in 2008 by the Queen. At the time students waxed lyrical about their new library’s toilets. One was quoted in the Independent as saying, “If these toilets were a bird, they would be an eagle as they soar above the rest of the competition.” The toilets were nice – but not that outstanding! Although if I was living in grotty student house, I might think differently…

So it seems that whilst our public libraries are cutting opening hours or shutting down altogether, university libraries are thriving. Let’s hope that these wonderful facilities make young adults value the benefit of libraries so that as they start work and settle down, they might join in the campaigning to save and improve our public library system.

Finally, am I going mad or do the current and previous edition of Writers’ Forum magazine both say ‘October’ on them?

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  1. #1 by Jac Dowling on September 26, 2012 - 6:36 am

    Hi Sally
    In our small S African town we have an amazing library. It’s well stocked, welcoming, happy, light and has an arm-chair reading section et al.
    It also has The Friends Of the Library who raise funds for new books and materials, +- 22 new books per month. We have a regular tea morning each Friday, in the reference section and a monthly guest who comes and shares their art/craft/ideas/writing with us , informally. We also hold an annual book fair for charities and any other interested parties, and have a very generous book-donating public.
    So, if libraries are on the wane, all is not lost . A circle of Friends can make a huge difference.
    Thanks for your regular and interesting newsletters – I look forward to them!

    Jac D
    South Africa

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on September 26, 2012 - 12:56 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Jac. I love the sound of your library – maybe that’s the way we need to go in this country and organise Friends’ groups to support the libraries. It sounds like a nice social activity as well.

  2. #3 by Vikki (The View Outside) on September 26, 2012 - 7:15 am

    Good luck with that goal Sally! :o)

    *goes off to look at Writers Forum magazine*


  3. #5 by jean on September 26, 2012 - 9:57 am

    Hi Sally. Best of luck with your letter writing. I remember one year finding they were a much better money spinner than the articles I laboured over. Seem to have got out of the habit now I have regular content commissions. Thanks for the reminder.

    We are lucky with libraries in our locality. There is a central one in Poole town and several more dotted around the suburbs. When we moved to Hamworthy three years ago, a new one was being built and I joined when the librarians were coping in a rather tatty hall adjacent to the local secondary college. Now we have our brand new library, complete with computers and an integrated cafe run by volunteers. It also has toilets and rooms for hire with a kindergarten using one. I think the only cuts have been in staff numbers and hours, and more use of volunteers.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on September 26, 2012 - 12:58 pm

      Hi Jean, I think cafes in libraries are a great innovation. They encourage people to visit the library as well as being a moneyspinner. Unfortunately our local library is tiny, with no room for a cafe.

  4. #7 by Jac Dowling on September 26, 2012 - 8:14 pm

    Sally – if ever any fellow blogger would like to know about our library Friends, I’d be happy to tell them how we got started and how we make it work – without doing any trumpet blowing! it’s something that gains momentum, but takes effort and can really make a difference. I hate seeing sad libraries!

  5. #9 by Linda on September 27, 2012 - 12:28 pm

    Thanks for the reminder about letters. I began my writing career with letters and fillers, and having some accepted gave me the courage to submit longer articles and stories.
    A library with decent toilets – that is something to be proud of! The main library in my area has toilets but they’re kept locked because of vandalism. If you need to use them you have to ask for the key. A bit embarrassing, especially if there’s only one librarian in sight and a long queue. Fortunately, I’ve discovered the mobile library that comes to our village – much more convenient!

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on September 27, 2012 - 12:34 pm

      Linda – what a shame, vandals in library toilets. I remember mobile libraries from my childhood and the queue of people waiting for it to arrive. I haven’t seen one for a long time – probably because I live in a city.

  6. #11 by robinnis on September 28, 2012 - 5:20 pm

    Yes really sad news about the financial situation impact on UK libraries – even though I am not resident in the UK I still feel strongly this is wrong.

    Rather fallen out with Writers Forum – as they have failed (this time) to send me my Moleskine for having a letter published – despite my polite reminder.

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on September 28, 2012 - 7:30 pm

      Rob – last time I had a letter in WF there was a delay before I got the notebook, and yes I chased it too. It did come eventually. I wonder if they are dependent on receiving stock from Moleskine?

  7. #13 by robinnis on September 28, 2012 - 8:03 pm

    Well maybe, but this goes back 3-4 months now so I guess I have written it off – but I shall be sticking with Writing Magazine from now on.

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