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Keeping up with John Mackintosh Library as Gibraltar celebrates World Book Day

The John Mackintosh Hall Library has become crucial for local readers, with a rise in members since the closure of all local book shops.

Some 13,740 people are listed as members in its books with a further 114 people signing up in 2019.

Library Manager Kimberley Pecino told the Chronicle the Library strives to keep up to date with new releases.

“We research the top literary prize lists such as the Man Booker, National Book Award, etc,” said Ms Pecino.

“We also research which films will be released throughout the year, and purchase books that are inspired by them, if applicable. We also have a book request form available at the library counter, whereby members can request books that are not part of the library’s collection. This is something we try to do as a courtesy to our members, but we don’t commit to every single request.”

It is estimated the Library has over 40,000 titles on offer, but Ms Pecino said it’s “hard to definitively count” as the Library has various numbering systems.

Since the closure of all local book shops people have been turning to the Library to get their reading fix.

“The increase in library attendance has been gradual, and has definitely risen since the announcement that local bookshops would be closing down,” said Ms Pecino.

“We have also noticed an increase in comments from library users saying that they are tiring of so much technology, and prefer a physical book to using their devices, and this has probably contributed to the increase in attendance, also.”

To keep fresh the Library has rolled out new initiatives, with a focus on enticing young people to read.

“We are excited to be close to launching our new Reading Time sessions for parents/guardians with babies and toddlers,” said Ms Pecino.

“An initial call-out for volunteers was posted on our social media pages, which received a great response.”

The volunteers will be attending a training session next week and the Library aims to launch the new sessions in the coming month.

“We are also delighted at the increase in school groups and nurseries visits to the library, where a member of staff will explain how the library works, read them a story and will give the teachers membership forms that the children can take home, to become members if they are not so already.”

“We also take the opportunity to gift them with bookmarks that have been designed by local children themselves through the bookmark competition on this occasion in collaboration with the Dyslexia Society.”

The Library will typically see visits from school children under 10 with their parents or guardians, teenagers studying for exams and pensioners.

“The Library sees a lot of daily movement and is busier than most people probably think,” said Ms Pecino.

Top 10 books at the John Mackintosh Library

Kimberley Pecino, Library Manager at the John Mackintosh Hall Library, shared her top 10 books ahead of World Book Day.

1. Vox by Christina Dalcher – Set in America where half the population have been silenced, Vox is the contemporary sister to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Harrowing and highly intelligent, this science fiction masterpiece is sure to strike a chord with those interested in socio-politics and feminist rights issues.

2. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith- The fourth instalment in this crime thriller series penned by JK Rowling under her male pseudonym. The plot is extremely complex, and at 650 pages this might be a feat for some readers to slog through, but I promise you that Cormoran Strike is such an endearing and interesting protagonist that every minute spent reading about his detective work will be well spent.

3. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker – This magnificent tale centres around the Trojan War, and Briseis – a queen whose family was murdered by Achilles. I discovered Pat Barker in recent years when I picked up her book ‘Regeneration’ and absolutely loved it. Fans of Kates (Morton, Furnivall, and Atkinson) will relish Barker’s blend of historical events with well-developed and insightful characters.

4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – This stunning debut by slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo is written in verse, and is incredibly emotional, heart-warming, and utterly relevant to any young person who has fought for what they really want. Possibly my favourite book from late 2018, I can’t wait for her newest book ‘With The Fire On High’.

5. Pride by Ibi Zoboi – A funny and contemporary retelling of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, set in downtown Brooklyn and starring characters of colour. National Book Award finalist Zoboi artfully balances issues of cultural identity, class and gentrification against the magic of first love – an easy read that packs a punch!

6. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward – Everyone has an opinion on the current President of the United States. Find out the truth about his stint in the White House, compiled after hundreds of hours of interviews with staff, meeting notes, and personal files and documents. Many books have been written about Mr Trump, but few have the experience of an investigative journalist as Woodward does, which makes this work stand out as a must-read.

7. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig – An extremely relevant book, considering that 1 in 5 of us suffer with mental health issues. Haig’s frankness about his experiences is both inspiring to those who feel overwhelmed by their own anxiety and depression, and illuminating to those who are mystified by it. Above all, his humour and encouragement lend a hopeful and heart-warming tone to his writing, A making this a book that is both important and worthwhile.

8. Dear Ijeawale, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Half of A Yellow Sun and The Thing Around Your Neck, is well known for speaking out for feminist rights, particularly in relation to women of colour. Here, she writes a letter to her best friend’s daughter, Ijeawale, after being asked: “How do I ensure that I bring my daughter up as a feminist?” This book is incredibly short, and can be read in an hour, but will have a great impact. Ngozi Adichie’s perceptive, wry, and direct writing style is refreshing, and will surely start a discussion about what it really means to be a woman today.

9. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle – This children’s book is the first in a five-part series, about the wild adventure that children Meg, Charles and Calvin go on after a stranger comes to their house one dark and stormy night. If you enjoyed the book, you must read this!

10. The Curiosity House series by Lauren Oliver – Technically cheating as I’m recommending the whole series, but I thought as this was no.10, no-one would notice! I love this series by Oliver, who typically writes young adult fiction. These books remind me of Ransom Riggs’ ‘Miss Peregrine’ series, mixed with elements of Lemony Snicket and The Night at the Museum. Expect wonderful and fantastical things at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities and Wonders. You’ll have a lot of fun reading this three book series!