Belfast Telegraph

Open an exciting chapter in your life with a visit to the library

By Claire Harrison

I like a good mystery novel, but when the book itself is a complete mystery, well that's even more intriguing. Like a red rag to a bull, I couldn't help wondering what was behind the wrappings in a basket of books the romantic souls of my local library had covered up and branded a "blind date with a book".

Wrapped in brown paper with just one clue stuck to the front of each, prospective readers were being invited to hire one out for free with no idea what they would end up going home with. It was the lucky dip of the literary world and one I couldn't leave. So I picked up two - one described as a "racy read" (well, how could one resist?) and the other saying only "chick lit" - and sped home to see what I had ended up with …

My visit to the library was part of a recent learning curve that they are not what they used to be.

The stereotype of the stern, buttoned-up librarian ssssssshing at everyone is long gone.

I have to confess I went many years before setting foot in one before my daughter was encouraged to join up after a visit to her school by Book Trust Northern Ireland. The Trust has a gifting programme which saw a bag arrive unannounced on her school peg one day with some lovely children's books inside for her to keep.

The aim of the initiative is to ensure everyone has access to good books at home in recognition of the fact that the world is always a better place when you can get lost in a good book.

Apart from the freebies, it got her asking about the library and we were delighted to take her along to the Ormeau branch in Belfast and sign her up.

She's now the very proud owner of a library card which she has more than got her use out of, insisting on reading one full library book every night and going straight back when her stash has run out.

She really loves the experience of visiting and picking the books as much as the actual reading - and I love the fun of our visits, too.

So I got my own card after being surprised by the different experience going to a library now is.

You're allowed to talk for a start, yet it's a very peaceful place to go and get some work done. It has a tea and newspaper club (two of life's best things!), story-time and rhyme classes for youngsters, all those mod con internet machines, the hire of (whisper it) e-books and e-magazines, and many more modern new additions.

All in all, Ormeau is a pretty cool place to while away an hour.

Sadly, like all other sections of the arts, our libraries have taken a hit in budget cutbacks and have had to scale back opening hours and staff numbers.

If you haven't been in one for a while, show your support by signing up. Love your library. It is, after all, completely free and possibly the easiest access there is to an arts experience.

Of course, in true mystery style, I've left it to the end to reveal what I ended up with in the literary lucky dip. The racy one was called Killer Queens by Rebecca Chance (promising "killer queens, scheming kings, murder plots and lashings of steamy sex" Oo-err ...) and the chick lit came courtesy of The Beach House by Jane Green ("a gang of lost souls looking for a new beginning", etc etc.

Neither of them are books I'd usually pick up but in the spirit of such a quirky idea, I'm steaming through the pages and quite enjoying them.

Kim and Kanye's fashion faux pas

There's a time and a place for a one-year-old and the front row of New York Fashion Week is not one of them.

What were Kim Kardashian and Kanye West thinking of taking young North to sit among the glitterati of the fashion and celebrity world, perched at the side of a catwalk in front of the world's media?

Being one, North has no idea what a fashion show is.

She doesn't care who the funny woman with the iconic bob is sitting beside her, looking uncomfortable over the presence of the young guest.

She doesn't understand why all those strange men are endlessly popping flash bulbs in her eyes. Is it any wonder the poor child wailed her head off?

Late-night drama for Oscar hopefuls

You wouldn't normally let two young boys sit up all night without a sensible reason. So it's a good job Aaron Lynch (13) and Riley Hamilton (10) have the best excuse in the world - their starring role at this weekend's Oscars.

The young Belfast actors will be tuning in to Los Angeles in the early hours of Monday morning to see if Boogaloo and Graham - in which they star - triumphs in the category for short film. The team behind the movie, Brian Falconer, Ronan Blaney and Michael Lennox, will be at the ceremony.

The question is not whether they'll win but whether Riley - who struggled to stay awake past 10pm for the Baftas - will keep his eyes open long enough to find out.

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