The Importance Of Having A Library

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I’ve given a lot of talks on music, folklore & magic over the years & I’ve learned the importance of a good library. The internet is an excellent cursory resource but quite often you can’t trust the information as it is not referenced. When giving a talk you need to be confident in the information you are getting over. Paying audiences, quite reasonably, may want to question or challenge you & so you need to trust the sources of your information.

I love books, I was late in my school-class to learn to read but once I got going that was it. It’s very easy to amass a lot of books in your life, but having a library is a little different. A library holds information relevant to your research in an accessible way.

Shelf space is prime real estate. There are only so many places to put books in the house so they need to be useful. Fiction I tend to read then give away unless the book is rare or I love it. So I keep Ursula Le Guin books & my hardback copy of The Chrysalids but I let the Stephen King books go to the charity shop (I can always get them again!)

Non-fiction books have different uses. There is a whole case of books about London for storytelling research for London events. I have a library of music in print; guitar instruction, folk song collections, popular song collections etc. This is for album research, repertoire for specific performances & fun.

I have a Steve Roud section. This is not intentional, it’s just he is such an excellent folklorist & so obviously tries to be dispassionate I can trust him! I’m giving a talk on the British folklore of love & once again his books have proved invaluable.

The library works for me so the books need to work; they need to be got out & read. Not necessarily in their entirety but opened & looked in. I run a probationary system for books which haven’t been referred to in a few years but would rather um & ah about buying a book than get rid of one. I have had to re-buy a book on a few occasions which is annoying.

As an amateur folklorist, professional storyteller, folk singer & musician I could not exist without my books. Where my books are is my place.

Now I’m going off to buy another bookcase!

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1 Comment

  1. Coudn’t agree more! However I have noticed that the growing industry of London books has thrown up a few poorly researched ones. I commented to the writer of a recent one about London traditions that the Deptford Jack is not actually killed at the end of the day, like at Hastings. She replied to apologise and say that her informant (probably herself?) had not had time to go and see it!

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