Sending thanks to all our volunteers

Volunteers’ Week, which is 1-7 June this year, is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

As a service we value the contribution our volunteers make, whether they’re teaching children how to code, selecting and delivering books to a Home Library Service customer, helping customers feel comfortable in our branches or supporting children’s reading though the Summer Reading Challenge.

We’re also proud to be able to offer a broad range of volunteering opportunities that are flexible and accessible, with options for students under the age of 16 who are volunteering to complete a Duke of Edinburgh Award too.

Research has proved that regular volunteering can also support wellbeing – providing opportunities to connect with other people, be physically active, keep learning and give to others – which is why we proudly display the five ways to wellbeing logo on our volunteering web page.

Whilst this week is about celebrating everyone who volunteers, we are grateful to the following volunteers, who shared a little more information on their experience of volunteering with our service:

Pat H – Home Library Service Volunteer
Pat N, Home Library Service & branch volunteer

Pat H

Pat H has been volunteering for the library service since 1989. Pat is a Home Library Service Volunteer (HLS), whose role includes choosing, delivering, and returning books, in this case audio books or Story Tapes to her customer. 

Pat told us: ‘I like to get to know my customer through our chats, getting a better understanding of what makes them tick and what they might prefer to read and, in some cases, introducing new authors. I have always been a reader and used libraries so thought volunteering would be a good way to help others.

I love chatting to my customers and over the many years I have been doing this a lot of them became friends, which was and is, a bonus. I remember one of my ladies who lived alone and could no longer get out and about because of mobility issues.  She always insisted I had a cup of tea and biscuit with her. A tray was always laid ready for me with a lovely china cup, saucer and matching plate, it somehow made me feel extra special!

I believe the Home Library Service is a very worthwhile service, it only takes an hour or so about once a month, but you can make such a difference to somebody. My top-tip for anyone considering signing up to be an HLS volunteer is my little book in which I record the books I choose for them so as not to take them again; I also record any they have hated or any requests!’

Pat N

Pat N joined the Home Library Service and Reading Friends scheme as a volunteer during Covid.  She also volunteers in the library at New Milton.

Pat told us: ‘I volunteer in New Milton library one morning a week which involves shelf filling and organising books, preparing crafts for children’s activities, which I particularly enjoy, and occasionally helping with events such as the summer reading challenge as well as other general duties.

For the HLS I select, collect, and deliver reading material in all forms, books, audiobooks and digital downloads, for up to five customers. I enjoy browsing the library catalogue to select suitable books and I love the enthusiasm and the joy receiving their monthly delivery brings to the readers.

Until recently I also had a monthly call with a very elderly lady as part of the reading Befriender scheme (Reading Friends). Although we didn’t talk much about the books the lady had read, as she claimed she couldn’t remember them, we covered lots of topics and always had a good laugh on the call. I found talking to this lady particularly inspiring.

The customers I have met have become friends, sharing their personal history and experiences. Their appreciation of the service is genuine and whilst selecting for them it has opened my mind to reading genres of books I would not have previously considered. If you enjoy reading and meeting people, it’s a very rewarding service to be part of.’

For more information on volunteering and the Home Library Service please visit our website. We are currently recruiting volunteers to help support the Summer Reading Challenge – a national scheme to support children’s literacy throughout the school summer holidays.

Finally don’t miss our Pride Month blog post from Chandler’s Ford Library volunteer Ren too.

Pride Month 2022 with our volunteer, Ren

Hello! I’m Ren, a volunteer at Chandler’s Ford Library, and I’ve been asked to tell you about some of the wonderful books we are recommending to you during Pride month 2022.

This Pride month Hampshire libraries are uplifting and celebrating a diverse range of queer voices and spotlighting their works through the theme of ‘coming of age’. Coming of age is an intense time of self discovery, something we all go through, but as queer people coming to terms with the fact you are different from what society expects of you can be scary, but at the same time also freeing. This freedom and celebration in the face of fear is what our ‘coming of age’ pride recommendations celebrate.

As many of you will know Pride started as a riot. Following the Stonewall uprising in 1969 after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, people took to the streets in 1970 to march for queer rights, these marches are now known as the first Pride. Understanding this history of Pride is essential in acknowledging how far queer rights have come. Because of people like Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, a movement started to push for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people and over time has allowed these protests to grow into celebrations all over the world, uplifting and bringing together the queer community, showing any queer person who feels alone that they can and will find their people and their pride. With how large Pride has become over the years LGBTQIA+ people can now to come into their identity in a much more accepting society.

On a personal note, I’m so proud to be a part of a library service which celebrates queer identities and has such a diverse range of books, and that the book world continues to publish a diverse array of queer voices and stories. It’s amazing to know how many books are available to so many people who can recognise themselves within their pages, and feel at home and seen there. Many of the queer books available and coming into the library will allow people to feel seen in ways they haven’t been before and that makes me so happy. Having pride in your identity is a strength, let these characters’ stories show you that.

Within the pages of these books you will see characters go through the growing pains of life as they come into their own, not just linking to the LGBTQIA+ elements of their identities, but holistically how their whole identity effects their life and how they interact with the world around them.

I hope everyone, people a part of the queer community, questioning, or an ally wanting to diversify their reading, will take this Pride month to read LGBTQIA+ books. Hampshire libraries have a wide array of LGBTQIA+ books available to borrow through our services, either in branch, through our home library service or on BorrowBox (our eBook and eAudiobook service).

There has been a delightful list of queer books curated by our staff, featuring diverse and unique stories which I encourage everyone to look at, as well as checking out the rest of our catalogue and displays in branch for your LGBTQIA+ book needs! Below are some of my personal selections and a little bit about them. (As always make sure you look up any possible trigger warnings before jumping into these stories!)

Hani and Ishu’s guide to fake dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Queer rep: Lesbian main character, Bisexual main character

In this sapphic story two opposites fake a relationship for their own gains. Hani, easy going and popular, has told her friends she is dating Ishu after they told her that she couldn’t be bisexual if she has only dated guys. Ishu, an academic overachiever, has agreed to fake date to boost her popularity in the hopes of becoming head girl. Through this story of self conviction and self love these two Bengali teens learn what it means to be there for each other and to believe in themselves, no matter what other people may say.

Felix ever after by Kacen Callender –
Queer rep: Transgender main character, Achillian main character, Lesbian side character, Gay side character, Sapphic side character, Non binary side character

Felix Love wants his own happily ever after, but, even with the pride he has in his Black, queer and transgender identity, he is worried he’s one marginalisation too many. After he starts receiving transphobic messages and his deadname and photos of him pre transition out him at school, Felix sets himself on getting revenge. What he didn’t set his sights on was landing himself in a quasi-love triangle.
Through this tale of exploration, identity and love follow Felix as he learns who he is and what he truly deserves.

Loveless by Alice Oseman
Queer rep: AroAce main character, Lesbian side character, Pansexual side character, Nonbinary side character

Georgia is obsessed with love… at least she is in theory and fiction. After a disastrous attempt to confess to her chosen crush goes horribly wrong on prom night she commits herself to finding someone at university. With the help of her outgoing university roommate Rooney, and best friends from school Pip and Jason she is sure to find love, right? But, as Georgia learns of the terms aromantic and asexual, she has to learn if love is in the cards for her at all or is she destined to stay loveless.
This story shows the growing pains of moving away from home, the beauty of friendships and the freedom in finding who you truly are.

Annie on my mind by Nancy Garden
Queer rep: Lesbian main character, Lesbian side character

The history of this book is one to acknowledge, it has been controversial in the past, being banned from many libraries and even being burned in Kansas City! Luckily now the world is much more accepting and this book is acknowledged as one of the first portrayals of a healthy queer relationship in the YA genre.

In this sapphic book two young girls meet at a museum and quickly form a bond which starts as friendship and blossoms into more. Despite the pressures and expectations of family, school and society the two know they need to be true to themselves and how they feel, and through the help of an unexpected source they may just gain the freedom they need to stay together. This book grabs onto your heart with its exploration of coming to terms with your identity and finding pride in who you love.

Join in with the Big Jubilee Read

If you’re a keen reader The Big Jubilee Read could be just the challenge you’re looking for. Featuring 70 titles, one for each year of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign, the books were all selected by a panel of experts to reflect our changing nation through fiction.

Each decade, from the 1950s to the 2020s includes ten books written by authors from Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and the UK.

The star-studded list of authors which includes Margaret Atwood, E. R. Braithwaite, Anthony Burgess, John le Carré, Bernardine Evaristo, Seamus Heaney, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marlon James, Hilary Mantel, Andrea Levy, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Douglas Stuart, Derek Walcott, and Markus Zusak; brings some of the best writers of the last 70 years back into the limelight.

In Hampshire we have purchased eleven full sets of the collection of seventy books, plus 22 additional reading group sets of key titles from every decade. To complement the full sets of printed books we have also purchased the titles as eBooks and eAudiobooks, where they were available, which can be borrowed for free through the BorrowBox app.

The full sets of the collection of seventy books, which can also be reserved for a small charge and sent to any public library in Hampshire, will be based at the following libraries from Saturday 28 May for the remainder of 2022:

For the full list of books please visit this website. Which will you read first…

The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon

A vivid picaresque comedy with serious, melancholy undertones, The Lonely Londoners documents the 1950s immigrant experience through the affectionate relationship of a new arrival and a rueful old timer.

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

Her grand attempt to tell what she felt was the story of Jane Eyre’s ‘madwoman in the attic’, this classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys’s brief, beautiful masterpiece.

The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch

When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt).

The Bone People, Keri Hulme

The Bone People is the story of Kerewin, a despairing part-Maori artist who is convinced that her solitary life is the only way to face the world. Her cocoon is rudely blown away by the sudden arrival during a rainstorm of Simon, a mute six-year-old whose past seems to hold some terrible trauma. In his wake comes his foster-father Joe, a Maori factory worker with a nasty temper.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Attwood

Both an unforgettable portrait of defiance and authoritarian rule and a devastatingly powerful exploration of female oppression, The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic dystopian vision with an all-too chilling resonance for our times.

Wolf Hall – The Wolf Hall Trilogy, Hilary Mantel

The first novel in her Man Booker double award-winning Wolf Hall Trilogy sealed Hilary Mantel’s reputation as one of Britain’s greatest living writers. Bursting with life and colour and peopled by complex, fully-realised characters, it’s impossible to imagine a more convincing and thoroughly immersive historical novel.

Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

An uncompromising yet tender and warmly witty exploration of love, pride and poverty, Shuggie Bain charts the endeavours of its eponymous protagonist – an ambitious and fastidious boy from a dire mining town with a thirst for a better life.

Author of the Month: Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory was chosen to tie in with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.  We wanted an accessible author who has a royal theme in their work, as well as having a good backlist.

Philippa Gregory is a world renowned historical novelist and a recognised authority on women’s history.  She has written 27 novels – her 27th, Dawnlands, will be published in November 2022 as well as 3 books for children.

As well as being a full time writer, she enjoys riding, walking, skiing and gardening.  She  also runs a charity which builds wells in The Gambia and teaches children how to cultivate their own food. The well digging side of the charity stopped during the pandemic to focus on a public health initiative.

We were lucky enough to chat to Philippa Gregory on one of our previous podcast episodes. You can listen to that here: https://pod.fo/e/e0f93.

“If it means something, take it to heart. If it means nothing, it’s nothing. Let it go.”
― Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl

Supporting Ukraine in libraries

Dobro Pojalovat v bibliotyeku – Добро пожаловать в библиотеку
(Welcome to the Library)

Our libraries are pleased to have been able to work alongside colleagues, communities, and partners to offer support to refugees arriving in Hampshire.

Alongside free and flexible emergency library membership and information on our services, which has been translated into Ukranian and Russian, we have also been able to offer Ukrainian Connections drop-in sessions for Ukrainian guests and their hosts in many of our libraries. Needs have varied, but many people attending these sessions are seeking local information, activities for children, access to the internet, support with completing forms, and company in a welcoming space where people are willing to listen without judgement.

For information on all events and activities at your local library, including Ukranian Connections sessions please visit our website

In addition to this direct support, we have also created a special collection of books to take you beyond the headlines. Explore the country’s history, culture and literature with our two BorrowBox promotions – Ukraine and Read Ukraine.

In Wartime, Stories From Ukraine
Tim Judah
Making his way from the Polish border in the west, through the capital city and the heart of the 2014 revolution, to the eastern frontline near the Russian border, seasoned war reporter Tim Judah brings a rare glimpse of the reality behind the headlines. Along the way he talks to the people living through the conflict – mothers, soldiers, businessmen, poets, politicians – whose memories of a contested past shape their attitudes, allegiances and hopes for the future. Together, their stories paint a vivid picture of a nation trapped between powerful forces, both political and historical.

Ukraine Diaries
Andrey Kurkov
Ukraine Diaries is acclaimed writer Andrey Kurkov’s first-hand account of the ongoing crisis in his country. From his flat in Kiev, just five hundred yards from Independence Square, Kurkov can smell the burning barricades and hear the sounds of grenades and gunshot.

Life Went on Anyway (Stories)
Oleg Sentsov
The stories in Ukrainian film director, writer, and dissident Oleg Sentsov’s debut collection are as much acts of dissent as they are acts of creative expression. These autobiographical stories display a Tarkovsky-esque mix of nostalgia and philosophical insight, written in a simple yet profound style looking back on a life’s path that led Sentsov to become an internationally renowned dissident artist.

Author of the Month: Len Deighton

Leonard Cyril Deighton was born in London in 1929. His publications have included cookery books, history and military history, but he is best known for his spy novels. 

In 1940, at the age of eleven, Deighton witnessed the arrest of Anna Wolkoff, who was detained as a Nazi spy and charged with stealing correspondence between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Deighton later said that observing her arrest was “a major factor in my decision to write a spy story at my first attempt at fiction”

It was on an extended holiday in 1962 that Deighton wrote his first novel – The Ipcress File (short for the “Induction of Psychoneuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress”), which was a critical and commercial success.  

Several of Deighton’s novels have been adapted for the screen. In March 2022, ITV broadcast a new six-part adaption of The Ipcress File, starring Joe Cole as Harry Palmer. The new series had a big budget and big name stars, and plenty of overseas locations to capture the eye of the viewer. 

During 2021, Penguin Books reprinted all of Len Deighton’s fiction backlist, creating a range of fresh and vibrant cover designs that hark back to the 1960s, when designer Ray Hawkey did the covers for their first Deighton editions. 

‘The hallmarks of a Deighton novel are an intricate plot, an easy grasp of detail and a total mastery of storytelling technique.’ – Sunday Times