Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Boo Hoo

Well, we didn't win top prize today. Didn't really expect to either and the project we thought would win did win. I can't help having a twinge of disappointment though.

Still, I hope that at least we made some good contacts and that we can move ahead a bit with getting books out in Nijmegen and Leeuwarden where two of the other nominees came from. I had actually written to each one of them offering books, but all said they didn't get the mail. Don't tell me I used a dirty word in the mail and it got into the spam box! - Yes, a word like 'free' often gets me in trouble.

Femke Halsema (Green left politician who gave a speech at the prize giving) thinks it's a good project, so that's nice. One of the jury members works with Exodus (organization helping former prisoners)in Amsterdam and will remind them they can get books, so that's positive too.

Surprising lack of press. I mean just no-one except one woman doing a profile of one of the nominees.

Ah well, tomorrow's another day.
Oh lord, tomorrow, a meeting, got a whole heap of work to do tonight.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

At the risk of repeating myself...

Thinking over that radio interview and the various 'portraits' made of Borderline Books in the past, I have to say that there is so much more to it than books. I have always wanted to set up small 'BookSpaces' in different towns where, with books as the one constant, a space is created for social exchange. Perhaps one would become a cafe, another would host language classes and poetry evenings - whatever the people using it at the time wanted.

Ideally (and yes I'm an incurable idealist) the initiative would be taken by the users and people would come to help each other. In the years I've been doing this I have noticed that the people with the least are the ones more likely to be looking out for books for their friends or family. Years ago we had a visit from a group of men recently released from prison and trying to get used to being on the outside. They were extremely polite. One asked me - that book is in the display, I don't suppose I could have that one... - Yes, of course you can. And then, My father's really interested in cycling, could I take a book for him? (I believe it was on the Tour de France)... and again, yes of course.

Through listening to people as they look through the books we learn so much more about what they are looking for and can lend a hand or put them in contact with other organizations who can help.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Radio Interview in NL and updates in UK

... yes we did a radio interview in Dutch - I really hate listening to myself speaking Dutch, but still it worked pretty well. The interviewer managed to cut out the worst bits. This was to make a portrait of Borderline Books for the Ab Harrewijn prize which we mentioned in an earlier post. In general I was quite happy with the interview, except that it missed the whole idea that it's more than just about giving books... through books you can get closer to people and gain their trust. Time after time I've seen people open up to me because they are talking about the subject of a book they are looking for rather than directly about their troubles. That way we can see what people need and maybe arrange other things - as we did last month with a trip to the Keukenhof flower park.
I have always felt that if Borderline Books is to be used as a work project it should be done in such a way that people discuss the books as they go along, talk about the content, talk about books they have enjoyed talk about things they have learned from books. This way any group-leader could learn so much more in such a relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunately the only time we experimented with that idea, the people we worked with had a completely different idea of how the project should be run. It seemed to be only concentrated on time-keeping and production - preparing people for 'real jobs'. In this way the experiment was a total failure from our point of view. They also put people into the project who had no feeling for books in the first place, so they were simply resisting the fact they were being put to work... none of that has anything to do with the way we planned or want to work.

Last month I was in the UK and went back to the YMCA in Sunderland. I had taken books there at Christmas and later heard that they wanted to build a library. One of the clients (and we are talking about young people from around 16-23) went to the local library and asked them to donate books, which they're going to do. They are also sending a librarian to talk to them about how to set up their library. This is absolutely brilliant!
Also when we went to Crisis Skylight again, bringing art books for the art department, we were told that the local library had agreed to give people library cards, using the Crisis address. That's a great step forward as you can't get a library card without an address in the normal way. The library is also making it possible for people to deliver their books back to Crisis instead of to the library if they find that easier. This is very enlightened thinking from that library and one I hope we can encourage in more places as we weave our way around the country.

So it does look as if we are making quite a mark in a short time in the UK and setting people to thinking about books.
Can't be bad!