Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Future for Libraries – Take 26

I promised regular followers a short break from our extended look at libraries in novels but of course that left me with the tricky question of how will to fill this previously unplanned breakout sessions and then of course as so often serendipity lends a helping hand. I had to pause though because to follow where serendipity beckoned risked getting involved in things way above my pay grade since I retired and stepping into debates that far more clever and dedicated activists than I will ever be have been pursuing for a long time. In the end though I decided if we were going to have a break from my usual attempts at witty and entertaining content I might as well do it properly and talk about something a bit more serious so I decided to continue.

I follow, as some of you may do,  a few of the blogs doing their very best to protect and promote what is left of the UK library service after sustained government onslaught and the loss of something like 400 libraries and so I needed serendipity’s helping hand to pinch me very hard when I read that our Prime Minister has written to his local council to complain about their plans to shut, amongst other things, libraries. Yes this is the same Prime Minister who is committed to cutting spending on public services back to levels last seen under Alfred the Great. You see you are pinching yourself now aren’t you! The PM has clearly been too preoccupied with higher order affairs of state to realise that when you cut spending on public services, public services get cut. He should get that Chancellor chap to explain economics to him. Instead Mr Cameron spouts the usual mantra about cutting back-office functions not services forgetting again that this is what governments have been saying for several decades now and the only back office function left is an answerphone constantly ringing in an empty room because all the librarians have been sacked and replaced with well-meaning but poorly prepared retired civil servants and bank clerks who will run libraries as volunteers from a lock up garage using books bought cheaply from Oxfam because there is no money for anything else.

Government unveils latest plans for the future of libraries

Government unveils latest plans for the future of libraries*

This it seems is what passes for national library policy today in pursuit of the statutory requirement to provide a comprehensive library service. No wonder Mr Cameron is so unhappy for his constituents. What will happen to all the sharp elbowed ladies determined to be first to the latest Nora Roberts, the sleep deprived mums hoping that half an hour with the Gruffalo and a few Duplo bricks will give her a chance of a nap whilst awaking a life of books for their child, the job clubs helping hopeless job seekers re-write their CV for the tenth time knowing it is pointless because there aren’t any jobs, the local history researchers keeping the past alive and the shy young lad who just comes into chat to the young librarian despite being fully aware that she is way out of his league.

But it’s all going to be all right because whilst catching up with some of those various blogs that I follow I noticed that we have a latest report on the future of libraries. The Seighart Report was produced at the request of the Minister, whose name I can’t be bothered to recall but who has libraries somewhere down in the small print of his brief, to make recommendations on the future for libraries in the England. All of which sounds encouraging apart from the small point that the report has been with the government since last December and no one seems to actually have read it yet and the other small matter that the report seems to have been commissioned in complete ignorance of another report published a year earlier. Now I can sympathise because these reports can get confusing for busy ministers struggling to recall which report was about what and he may easily have missed the subtle clue in the title of the previous report as it was called confusingly The Future for Libraries.

The report The Future for Libraries was commissioned by The Arts Council so you may have missed it (yes me too.) They produced the report when they took over national responsibility for libraries from the previous national body in which libraries museums and archives were lumped together by the government under a single organisation that was totally ineffective because the government had given it an impossibly wide brief and they in turn had taken over responsibility for libraries from the previous national library body because it had been so ineffective because they didn’t have a brief at all; are you spotting a theme here. Still we shall see what the latest report brings but don’t hold your breath because what startling new plan does the latest report have amongst its recommendations after 2 years of consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. It recommends….a Taskforce. That’s taskforce spelt kick-into-the-long-grass-until–all-the-libraries-are gone. You know it isn’t going anywhere when the report starts with the sentence The public library service in England is at a crossroads because that is a completely inappropriate analogy. Library policy is not at a crossroads it’s stuck on one of those roundabouts, like the ones near Swindon where you have no idea in which direction you need to go so you just keep going round and round and round. Another more apt analogy for the policy makers might be a goldfish circling its bowl with a constantly astonished expression amazed at that it sees despite the fact that it saw the same thing only a few minutes ago; constantly opening its mouth but without any actual sound emerging whilst back in the real world the librarians and their colleagues get on with doing their best to run what is left of our libraries.

So if that is the best we can do to secure the future for libraries I would like to refer our policy makers to two other models for libraries, one from abroad and one from nearer to home that they might like to add to their deliberations.

The wonderful Lucy Mangan of The Guardian and a self-confessed, passionate book and library lover offered her own response following a previous and now long forgotten government report on public libraries in 2010, a report calling for “new governance models” for public libraries (you see what I mean about a roundabout). Lucy offered an intimate proposal for revitalising her local library offering to set up the library in her own home. Membership would be available to applicants who “provide proof of a recent Saturday Guardian purchase, a picture of a kitten and a (real) Tunnock’s teacake”, and in a welcome simplification of all those tiresome library rules she proposes just three

“1) Silence is to be maintained at all times. For younger patrons, “silence” is an ancient tradition, dating from pre-digital times. It means “the absence of sound”. Sound includes talking.
2) I will provide tea and coffee at cost price, the descriptive terms for which will be limited to “black”, “white”, “no/one/two/three sugars” and “cup”. Anyone who asks for a latte, cappuccino or herbal anything will be taken outside and killed. Silently.
3) Opening hours are noon to midnight. I’m not a morning person.

It is certainly more positive than some vague proposals for an ill-defined Taskforce and might even offer a solution for those areas of the country including my own county where there are unsurprisingly not enough well-meaning volunteers to run the former library but the shops still stock Tunnock’s Teacakes.

Image from

Image from

Hope for a brighter future and a demonstration that in practice librarians are way ahead of the ill-informed thinking of politicians comes from Sweden and I am grateful to Graham a former colleague and regular reader who sent me details of a fascinating experiment in Gothenburg. Unlike our own country where bus services are disappearing almost as fast as libraries Volvo joined forces with Gothenburg City Library to demonstrate the advantages of their electric, emission-free buses by creating a temporary indoor bus stop which is designed like a library, to emphasise how quiet it is and from which visitors will be able to borrow books and tablets from librarians or sit and read or listen to audio-books just like a real library in fact. The City Libraries enthusiastically embraced the idea because they could see the advantage of such a development for improving access and the only possible grounds for confusion I can see would be asking the bus driver for two returns and she takes your books off you and puts them back on the shelves!

But don’t expect anything as radical as this to turn up in the UK anytime soon. Not just because our transport companies are notoriously investment phobic but because when they do eventually get round to investing in silent emission-less buses there won’t be any libraries left open to drive buses into. Not only that but there is but there is just a possibility that, following the lead of several villages recently of creating libraries in old red ‘phone boxes, some underage, underemployed adviser to the Minister for Whichever Department is Responsible for Libraries This Week will read about Gothenburg and come up with the brilliant and idea of putting all the books from the now closed libraries in bus shelters and calling that a comprehensive library service.

I‘m going to stop now because my blog was as you know intended to be entertaining and diverting and give us all a break from the tawdry reality of government policies but regular listeners to my radio show will know that I do occasionally get carried away and go off on what turns into a bit of a rant just as I have here, rather than sticking to the informative narrative that the show usual features. So I will return in the next post to the safety of finding amusement in the curious cameos that libraries and librarians play in popular culture, looking at some other novels from Lindsey Davis, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin amongst several more and leave all this politics stuff, as I said to the many admirable library campaign blogs that cover this subject far more effectively and certainly more professionally than I have managed to do here. For those who don’t read or are not interested in all these books we shall also have in the near future posts about fantasy librarians, librarians in film and on TV and even librarians in songs.




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“Back then it was considered prestigious to be a librarian”

A couple more thrillers for you this week based on the rather curious assumption by some authors that ancient libraries whilst having no intrinsic value in themselves always hide sinister dark secrets that megalomaniacs, psychopaths and anyone else bent on world domination or obscene wealth will stop at nothing to protect or to control depending on the plot. But before I get onto that I ought to acknowledge that there is nothing big and nothing clever about poking fun at novels written in good faith by people far more talented and entertaining than I can ever expect to be. However I won’t let something like that stop me trying to finds some entertainment value in those books especially as I have taken the trouble to read many, although obviously not all, of them so you don’t have to…unless you find them intriguing of course.

This week a novel that really does feature the ancient Library of Alexandria and one where despite a half- hearted attempt to invoke the spirit of that famous library the link to that or any other library is at best tenuous. This is Mikkel Birkegaard’s The Library of Shadows. Birkegaard’s book doesn’t tick quite so many boxes of the “flat-pack library thriller kit” that I identified last time partly because it is really about a bookshop; easy to confuse with libraries for authors who have probably never used either after all they are both full of books. There is a small library inside the bookshop with books containing apparently hidden powers, never satisfactorily explained, but it’s a bit incidental and the story is really about the custodians of the Library. They are a shadowy cabal the members of which all have secret powers although as far as I can see without the fancy costumes and masks that they wear in superhero films, powers that have a secret link to the ancient Library at Alexandria obviously, despite the fact that this link too is never properly explained. The novel is less about books and libraries than about the power of stories which would be an interesting theme were it not taken in a wholly preposterous direction by the author producing a story that is less the willing suspension of disbelief more total immersion for the chronically credulous.Library of Shadows

The opening is familiar and reasonable enough; a son long since left home comes home to bury his father only to discover that his father, whom he had always thought was an unassuming bookseller, was not only part of a shadowy cabal hiding a sinister and powerful secret but indeed the leader of the shadowy cabal. And of course as is the way in these thrillers his death it becomes clear may not be as innocent as it seems and so the son gets drawn into a strange and dangerous world and where the library/bookshop as well as his life of course and are threatened. The upside of this tricky new life is that in the spirit of the flat-pack thriller he does get the chance to sleep with a beautiful woman.

The shadowy cabal and the powerful secret hidden by his father is that the members have the ability through stories or narratives of any kind really, to influence people’s behaviour to do as the speaker or his followers want, or to believe things that they otherwise would not. Think of it as say David Cameron announcing he is launching a campaign against poverty and despite the exponential growth in food banks we all believe him. These storytellers are the transmitters as they are known within in the cabal. Also members of the cabal are the listeners and they not only have the disturbing power to hear everything that everyone is saying all of the time, think of them as GCHQ, but also to conjure up images from the stories that people are reading and if they are very good actually read their mind; think of it as acute tinnitus with added pictures. Most scary of all though, the listeners can influence people through this listening just as much as the transmitters. Collectively these listeners and transmitters are known as Lectors and the closest you get to a link to Alexandria is a reference to how “back then it was considered prestigious to be a librarian. They were regarded as…people who had influence…a prime position for a Lector” I do hope all that is clear before we move on? If you read the book it is all helpfully explained with reference to some pseudo-linguistic psychobabble of no obvious provenance but it still sounds awfully like brainwashing. Jon our hero it transpires, completely unwittingly, is also the most powerful transmitter of them all capable of making objects move and generating dangerous discharges of energy that can set fire to things just by reading, a bit like those occasions when I read about the twaddle in the Daily Mail but a lot more deadly.

All this is fine though because this a the good shadowy cabal and they only use their ancient powers for good but leaving aside for a moment the enormous moral ambiguity of such a statement this would make for a really boring thriller so obviously we have the compulsory evil shadowy cabal who are the bad guys and who will stop at nothing to gain control over the bookshop, its library and all the good guys, especially Jon and with his power hope to achieve, yes you’ve guessed it world domination! It all gets a bit James Bond when the leader of the bad guys calmly explains, as only deluded psychopaths can, his plans to Jon who is now his prisoner in his secret lair in the new Library of Alexandria. His plan is to channel the power of the ancient Library of Alexandria through the new Library using the stories telling powers generated by our hero into his own body so he can become all powerful and then use the Library to transmit his awesome power all around the world. Something like that but by this time I wasn’t really paying much attention to be honest. I kept thinking that what our villain was missing most was a fluffy white cat to stroke. No of course he doesn’t get away with it but you can read all about that yourself if you are that interested.

The other novel we will feature this week is much more conventional but no less demanding on your credulity.

Gayle Lynd’s The Library of Gold (which for some reason has also been published as The Book of Spies) includes an extensive bibliography at the end and an exposition of the feasibility of the existence of the Library at the heart of the novel for which we will give her the benefit of the doubt by asuming it is all genuine. It is also the best plotted of the four ancient-lost-library thrillers that comprise this section of the blog. It even features not one but four librarians. Unfortunately in the first 20 pages there are three dead bodies two of them are librarians and the third librarian is in jail for killing one of the others who just happened to be her husband killed in a car crash when she was at the wheel. By that time, too, we know that the the ancient lost library of Ivan the Terrible, The Library of Gold is a whole lot more dangerous than your local branch library, or even some small war zones, and best avoided if you want to live a long and happy life. One of the dead librarians was the Librarian of the famed Library of Gold, assasinated in his own library and the third victim gets a bullet through the head just for mentioning the Library of Gold to a colleague on a park bench when he only went out for his lunch. Over the next few chapters we add in the CIA, a shadowy sinister cabal, a spy with a messy past, oh and the librarian who has done time gets released and forms an unlikely and mutually suspicious partnership with the spy. When they both end up trying to keep one step ahead of everyone with a gun you have ticked most standard potboiler boxes. But it does get better.

Library of GoldFor a start the first thing that our jailbird librarian does when she is freed is spot her dead husband very much alive. When he realises he’s been spotted he avoids all those tricky explanations about how not only is he not dead but why he hasn’t been in touch either by trying to bump her off. A fate from which she is saved by the spy with the troubled past. And as all this is bound up with The Library of Gold off they go to track it down despite the awesome power of the cabal and their ruthless hit men and despite being as one of the hit men says, “one a rank amateur the other past his prime” but this is flat-pack-thriller land so who is your money on?

The resurrected husband it seems staged the car crash to escape his wife and become Librarian of the Library of Gold, the lair of the shadowy cabal and live happily ever after with his real love the Assistant Librarian but as we have already seen managing the Library of Gold is nearly as precarious a job as managing Aston Villa so its no surprise when he ends up dead 3 chapters later but then he was already supposed to be dead anyway.

I hope you are keeping up with all these librarians, two of whom are now dead and a third one is on the run from a ruthless assassin, but is being helped by a past-his-best CIA agent who was has just killed her librarian ex-husband who she thought was dead anyway. You need to because we haven’t mentioned yet the real point of the story which is a book, The Book of Spies, from the supposedly mythical Library Gold which has turned up in New York and after being stolen is now in the possession of the Assistant Librarian from the Library of Gold and who is also now on the run from the same ruthless assassin because the book will give away the secret location of the Library and at the same time expose the nasty little plot planned by Mr Big and Obscenely Wealthy at the Library to make a very large fortune by starting another war in Afghanistan.

So will Mr Big and Obscenely Wealthy get away with it and why is he having strange fantasies about young women; will The Book of Spies reveal the secret location of the Library of Gold; will our mismatched amateurs continue to stay one step ahead of our ruthless assassin; who is this other even more deadly assassin called The Carnivore and whose side is he on. You’ll have to read the book won’t you. Oh and I almost forgot do the librarian and the troubled spy fall for each other? Sorry I mistook you for someone who was the slightest bit interested.

There are plenty more novels still to come in our look at libraries and librarians in literature by an impressive list of names including Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and Lindsey Davis and of course we will not forget the best novel about libraries ever…The Name of the Rose, but before all that I am thinking of giving you a break from books with a blog on something a bit different next but we’ll see what happens when we get there.

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“Deliberate harm is almost never levelled at librarians…they are not targets for hit men”*

Thanks for your patience whilst I was away on what seems like a world tour but was in fact only a short European Tour with visits to bits of the UK thrown in for good measure but taking up pretty much all of October! Time to get back to where we left off though with a bit of a surprise for those of you who thought that the worst thing that could happen in a library was someone loudly ordering a pizza on their phone or getting trampled in the rush for the last Jackie Collins novel. It seems that there are libraries that attract the unlikely involvement of the CIA, shadowy cabals and ruthless assassins, or at least there are in the world of libraries in fiction.

Personally I blame Harrison Ford or at least Indiana Jones, or perhaps, Michael Douglas and Katherine Turner and Jewel of the Nile or maybe even Cubby Broccoli for the phenomenon that is James Bond. Anyway several of the thrillers I have read involving libraries seem to have been written with more than one eye on the potential for flogging the story off to Hollywood. So they have also sorts of fake jeopardy with unlikely escapes spread liberally around the world’s great tourist hotspots all of which seems more important than a really convincing story line or character development and you begin to suspect that the use of an ancient lost library is nothing more than a thin veneer of classical respectability to disguise the threadbare plot.

Let’s start for example with the novel I mentioned in an earlier post and which I discovered in the unlikely setting of the pleasant lounge ofLibrary of the Dead a lovely little hotel in Cambrils in Spain whilst half-heartedly browsing the dog eared copies of Tom Clancy, Maeve Binchy and Jeffrey Archer together with a several random German novels left by thoughtful previous holidaymakers. Glenn Cooper’s Library of the Dead is an entertaining enough fantasy but I should have paid attention to one of the iron laws of choosing books to read; the more egregious the hyperbole on the dust jacket the more sceptical you should be about the actual product. The Library of the Dead couldn’t possibly live up to the lurid cover strap line, “The most shocking secret in the history of mankind is about to be revealed”, and the secret which has been kept “in an underground library beneath an C8th monastery has now been unearthed – with deadly consequences. A select few defend the secret of the library with their lives”. Well it certainly sounded like it ought to have some mileage and the definite nod in the direction of The Name of the Rose didn’t do any harm so I gave it a go. But the expectation soon waned as you have to wade through more than 200 pages before you get a hint of where the Library might fit in and until page 250 or thereabouts before one actually materialises. In the meantime you get a thriller written as I said with more than half an eye on the screenplay (the author also writes successful screenplays) including several of the elements from a flat pack thriller kit.

Before we get to the ancient library plotline there is the small matter of the case of the present day Doomsday serial killer who is being tracked by a couple of inevitably mismatched federal agent protagonists. And in between the washed up agent and beautiful women on the track of another New York psycho stuff there is also the bit about Winston Churchill on behalf of the British government calling US President Truman about what they have just discovered on the Isle of Wight and that is bigger than the atom bomb. What they have discovered it seems is the Library of the title. Now that has got to be some library to involve Churchill and Truman. Most library problem are usually resolved by the Chief Librarian or at the very least by an Employment Tribunal. If it involves Churchill and Truman it is one very serious problem and probably a whole lot more serious than the world’s most overdue library book or another complaint about not enough copies of The Gruffalo. In fact it is a secret so big that we are told that the Roswell Project, at the time the biggest UFO conspiracy story of all time, was nothing more than a front to protect the world from the real and much more dangerous and threatening secret about a library. So it is a library whose secret is even bigger than creatures from outer space landing in the US! Blimey, it certainly isn’t any Library in which I have ever worked but unfortunately my interest was already waning with the implausibility of it all.

The library thread begins, albeit about a third of the way into the books and after several dead bodies and the compulsory exposition of all of the protagonists, on 7th July in the year 777 on the Isle of Wight when a simple man who already has nine children including six sons is compelled to get his leg over again after a hard day in the Dark Ages. The resulting son is the 7th son, and as dad is also a seventh son and anyone knows that a 7th son of a 7th son born on 7/7/777 has got to be well to the dark side of Freddy Krueger and because he can’t read or write and can’t even speak he is carted off to the local monastery. Then mysteriously after a few months and for no obvious reason he starts to write. He writes dates and names and whether that date is a birth or a death and he writes them rather like a ticker tape machine without interruption and without stopping and so it goes on and on book after book, year after year, name after name, date after date, death after birth and it seems he is recording not just everyone who has lived but everyone who ever will live in the future as well. The monks decide this must be some kind of divine vocation that must be protected and preserved and so begins the Library of a sort.

One of several flaws in the plFlatpack5ot is that any monks faced with this sort of diabolical nonsense in 777 would have had the offending lad burned at the stake before the end of the week and with a dose of hanging, drawing and quartering thrown in for good measure just so any other passing 7th sons of 7th sons got the message but then it would be a very short novel wouldn’t it. Anyway to cut a long story short for the next several hundred years this carries on with side orders of sacrificial virgins used to produce offspring for the gifted/tortured/damned scribes and secret library extensions to house all this data until it becomes “one of the 10 largest libraries in Britain” with over 700, 000 volumes and all of them about as interesting as a book of circuit diagrams until….Cue fade out and cut to C20th.

Until the “Library” is discovered by a team of archaeologists in the 1950’s who make the mistake of telling the British government who in turn obviously to win Brownie points tell the Yanks. The American adopt their well-known subtle and sensitive approach to joint research, the preservation of onsite contextualisation, and protection of the physical artefacts by carting the entire collection off to the Nevada desert to a secret location and start analysing the data. They realise that because the Library predicts births and deaths into the future they can spot things like wars, plague and natural disasters and that knowledge can be used for what is euphemistically called “planning” by those nice boys in the CIA. When our villain, the inevitable former CIA agent turned rogue psychopath starts to use this information for personal gain, the Doomsday Killer, Churchill, Truman the Nevada Desert and an ancient library in the Isle of Wight all begins to make sense… sort of but by then I was definitely past caring. There is a sort of clever twist to the story and you can work out for yourselves what happens to our mismatched and antagonistic federal agents as the story develops so I won’t spoil it for you.

But you see what I mean about not believing the jacket hype. The library in the title is at the very least misleading which is why when I spotted a sequel from Glen Cooper about a medieval library holding a terrible secret hidden under the Nevada desert by the CIA (yes the very same one) I just pretended I hadn’t seen it and walked swiftly in the opposite direction. I was even more determined to avoid it as the book jacket went on to say that in the sequel shadowy villains want to get their hands on the secret library which is the other trope that always turns up in library based thrillers and I had already read enough of those but I will offer just one example for this week. The only elements from the flat pack thriller missing from the from the original Glen Cooper Library of the Dead were a shadowy cabal, and as far as I can see cabals always have to be shadowy or sinister or preferably both, and a plucky underdog protagonist pitted against the shadowy cabal. Gayle Lynd, AM Dean and Mikkel Bierkegaard more than make up for those omissions so we’ll have a look at A M Dean first.

Historical thriller writers seem convinced that the idea of an ancient lost library possessing powerful and world changing volumes is almost as compelling to readers as the lost Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail and as equally compelling to those shadowy cabals. The CIA seem to get involved on a regular basis which always help sell it to Hollywood who seem to have a soft spot for dark suits and Raybans but despite their limitless resources, vast surveillance networks and lots of well-muscled blokes in dark glasses they always get beaten to it by our plucky underdogs, a plot line that reaches he highest form of hokum in A M Dean’s The Lost Library. In an effort to drum more than the usual willing suspension of disbelief we are asked to believe that despite the strong historical evidence to the contrary the Great Library of Alexandria was not destroyed by a fire that may or may not have been caused by Julius Cesear but had “simply vanished” but then something as inconvenient as a catastrophic fire would almost completely would put the mockers on a novel all about finding the Lost Library of Alexandria wouldn’t it. And just to add extra confusion we have not one but two shadowy cabals one of which believe it or not  is a shadowy cabal of librarians who are of course the good guys who seem to have preserved the secret of the Library of Alexandria from their rivals. Mind you they have also been using the power of the information in the Library to influence world events bringing down Nero and Napoleon apparently and that’s just the victims under N; so librarians with a God complex then. Their rivals the sinister but enormously powerful Council appear to have not only members at the highest positions in many world governments and an international army of ruthlessly efficient hit men but also enough computing power to make Google look like a Spectrum ZX. This limitless power turned to dubious uses put me in mind of the real life Bilderberg Group or perhaps I mean FIFA. Despite this they have been thwarted for centuries by those plucky librarians whose technology seems to comprise wrapping books in brown paper parcels and posting them into letter boxes around the world, a sort of bibliographic Womble. And if you think that is daft then wait until you meet our plucky heroine.The Lost Library

Emily Wess is a young scholar of ancient civilisations just completed her PhD and about to embark on her teaching and research career until she gets a letter from her academic mentor telling her he knows where the Lost Library of Alexandria is because he is the Chief Librarian and that Emily must now find it but he can’t help much as he’s just been assassinated 10 pages earlier. So faced with a murdered friend and a letter which encouragingly includes passing reference to ruthless assassins who will be out to get her, a fiance also on the run from those same assasins she does just what you or I would do; she abandons her fiancé and her job and sets off to find the Lost Library following a set of clues that are supposed to be undecipherable to anyone with a lower IQ than a young PhD expert on the Library of Alexandria but which in fact can be followed by any reasonably bright 10 year old.  Fortunately as well as her PhD and an instant recall of how Indiana Jones escaped all those perils she also knows how to pick the locks of handcuffs using a bent safety pin whilst still half concussed, a skill no doubt learned as part of her Girl Guide badge for Basic Housebreaking. This comes in particularly handy just before the ruthless killers are about to ruthlessly kill her. Her quest takes Emily to Oxford – cue shot of The Radcliffe Camera, Istanbul – cue shot of the Blue Mosque and Topkapi, and Alexandria – cue sone pyramids and a bit of desert; just like those Bond films or maybe The Saint, remember him. Of course our plucky PhD triumphs over insurmountable odds finds the Lost Library which is now of course digitised and thwarts the bad shadowy cabal at the same time as seriously pissing off the librarians’ shadowy cabal by uploading all these dangerous secrets documents that they have been guarded for centuries on to the internet just like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden thereby destroying their power because now any other sinister shadowy cabal or random psychopaths seeking world domination can get access to it as well.

As I said I think that is enough hokum for one week. Next week another mismatched pair of espionage novices thrust into battle against a powerful shadowy cabal in The Library of Gold, and the even more risible story of the Library of Shadows featuring stories that don’t just make your ears burn but can actually set places on fire and which barely features a library at all, manages without the interference of the CIA but does at least have two shadowy cabals .

*Ian Sansom, The Mobile Library: Mr Dixon Disappears [about which more in a later post]

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