Monday, May 31, 2010


As local government works out how to deal with planned (and still to be announced) cuts in expenditure, there are already indications that the slow war of attrition which saw more than 30 "service points" closed in the last year for which figures are available, is about to quicken its pace. Library authorities in Belfast have already announced plans to close 10 libraries in Belfast, while Hampshire Libraries have plans to cut 60 library jobs, according to a recent article in the Bookseller.
Yet access to books and libraries is important for both individual and communities, so it is good to know that writer Nadine Gordimer will be emphasising the important role of both in her forthcoming talk at the Hay Festival:

Sunday, May 23, 2010


In the New York Times, Pat Ryan draws some interesting comparisons between Lisabeth Salander, the anti-heroine of
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the fiercely independent character Pippi Longstocking created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. This is not just a casual exercise as Tattoo novelist Steig Larson told his publisher when delivering the manuscript for the first book in his Millennium trilogy:
"My point of departure was what Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult. Would she be called a sociopath because she looked upon society in a different way and has no social competence?

Read the complete article in the NYT

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Love Among the Butterflies

Peter Marren, author of the forthcoming Bugs Britannica looks at the future for British butterflies and the growth in butterfly research in a review of the recently published book The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland by Jeremy Thomas and Richard Lewington.
Merren quotes Thomas as reading about 3,000 scientific papers on British butterflies that have been published since 1990 during the research for this boom - which leads me to ask why this important body of research should be confined to academia?

Access to knowledge is currently structured in such a way as to exclude ordinary people. We currently have a two tier library structure, where special libraries serve the academic community and bolster privilege by keeping the rest of the population - the people who pay for the research - excluded by a series of boundaries and borders. It is time to open scientific research up to everyone. Small steps might have been made towards an open scientific community since the coming of the internet - but more can and should be done to create a new 'commons' for knowledge.

Read Peter Merren's review in the Daily Telegraph.

also by Peter is a new article in The Scotsman: "Why the insect world should be celebrated - even the dreaded midge" in which he discusses some of the different names given to insects which he discovered during research for Bugs Britannica:

"We found, for example, around a dozen Scottish names for earwigs, among them clipshears, coachbell, forkie, gowlach, switchpool, and my favourite, twitch-ballock. There is an even richer batch of names for bumblebees, which I can remember were often called "bummie-bees" when I lived in north-east Scotland. I love the name "foggie-toddler" for the bee that "toddles" through the "fog" or grass to find its nest. And "sodger" or "red arsie" for the distinctive bee with a red tail."

Read the rest of Peter's article here