In my first professional post as a librarian at the Charles Frears School of Nursing, one of my duties was cataloguing new books. These were mostly textbooks but one day something different arrived on our shelves. It was a memoir by a then little known writer who had worked as a midwife in the East End of London just after World War Two. While cataloguing this book I was drawn in by the stories of hardship and human warmth and it took rather longer to arrive on the shelves than usual! Little did I know that this was the start of a global phenomenon: it was, of course, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth.
In the years since Call the Midwife came out, there has been a flurry of first person accounts by health professionals – such as This is Going to Hurt by junior doctor Adam Kay and The Language of Kindness by nurse Christie Watson – reaching the best-seller lists. Writer and nurse, Molly Case has an explanation for the recent rise of the medical memoir: “Modern life is so frantic and everybody is so busy clicking things online and rushing around that there’s this collective need for introspection. People want to look inward at their bodies and minds. They want to unpick how society works and find out what makes the people looking after them tick” (O’Kelly, 2019). It may also be that at a time when the NHS is perceived by some to be under threat that the public is seeking to better understand and to celebrate one of the UK’s leading institutions.
A new display in the Kimberlin Library seeks to explore some of these intersections between health, medicine, literature and the arts. Based around the six books on the shortlist for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize, all of which are available to borrow, we have extended the theme to include books from our collection and objects from DMU Special Collections. My personal favourite is Life is the Heart of a Rainbow which features the works of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama has a mental health disorder and has suffered from hallucinations since childhood but has used these visual disturbances as an inspiration for mesmerising artworks – many of which famously feature polka dots – over a long and critically acclaimed career.
You will find the display in the Learning Zone on the ground floor of the Library, next to the Leisure Reading collection.
As part of the DMU Festival of Teaching events students, staff and members of the public were invited to come and explore the wealth of reading available through Kimberlin Library. Refreshments were offered and the chance to chat about books, share thoughts favourite reads. Kaye Towlson and Carol Keddie staffed the event and Ann Collick created the display with books selected by herself, Carol Keddie, Gareth Glover, Chris Peach, Cress Burston and Dips Patel.
Students attending commented that they had never thought of the library as a place to borrow books for reading other than for their course and were impressed by the wide range of materials available. They said they used to read for pleasure but now focus on their course reading. Some students expressed an interest in “self-help” books, particularly those advising on career success or financial gain. Reads recommended ranged widely from Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman through to the Darren Shan Cirque du freak series.
The session promoted reading as a core skill enabling social inclusion, social justice and civic participation. Leisure reading has a big contribution to make to the development of this essential life skill and has many benefits: academic, social, health and wellbeing. This spoke to the themes of the DMU Festival of Teaching.
Photography helps us to see the world as it really is. Capturing images on film or digital cameras is an opportunity to record unique moments in history. Culture, politics, society and human nature are viewed through the lens. This is highlighted by a new display in the Learning Zone of the Kimberlin Library. Curated by Ann Collick in the Library’s Displays Team, the Photography display is the latest in a series which celebrates diversity in the arts. Previous themes include Bollywood, Harlem Renaissance, BAME fashion designers and BAME figures in history. All the books on display can be browsed and borrowed, so why not come and have a look at this inspiring collection?
One of the featured photographers is Carrie Mae Weems, whose work focuses on portraits and the family lives of African Americans. Passionate and political, Weems had a baby when she was sixteen – the year after the assassination of Martin Luther King – and shortly afterwards packed a cardboard suitcase to find work in New York. She received a camera as a birthday present at the age of twenty, started taking pictures straight away, went to college to study photography and design, and has never looked back. She’s won many awards for her work. Her projects include ‘Family Pictures and Stories’ (1981-2), ‘Dreaming in Cuba’ (2001), ‘African Jewels’ (2009) and ‘The Obama Project’ (2012).
Other contemporary photographers include Jamel Shabazz, from Brooklyn in New York, who documents African American lives, and Zanele Muholi, a South African artist who focuses on black LGBTQIA+ and gender-non-conforming people. Artists from the past are represented too, such as J A Green, believed to be Nigeria’s first professional photographer, and Howard Bingham who captured iconic shots of Muhammad Ali.
These inspirational photographers have fought adversity and pushed boundaries to achieve their dreams.
Did you know that the second floor of the Kimberlin Library has a rolling display of new books? Art, Design and Humanities books often have stunning jacket designs which are just too good to be hidden away on the main shelves! The lost paintings of Frida Kahlo, contemporary Vietnamese art, science for potters and the story of plywood are just some of the topics you can see on display right now. There’s also a book with one of the most intriguing titles ever – The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
All of the books on display can be borrowed. Feel free to browse them, as they include some fantastic illustrations and designs. The display will change as we buy more lovely books to inspire and inform your studies.
Yo what’s up? Check out the hip hop displays by MC Ann of the Kimberlin crew. Hip hop is not just music, it’s a way of life, straight up. The bling, the threads, the beats. Breakdancing, street art, urban style. Hip hop became popular in the 80s and early 90s but its roots go back a long way. The music grew out of genres such as reggae, jazz and gospel, fusing with New York’s black youth culture. Unique fashion styles and graffiti art combined with rap and turntables to create the hip hop phenomenon. Have a look at these books and posters, which channel the freshness, power and creativity of hip hop. The displays are in the cabinets between the first and second floors of the Library.