The Library Angel?

I’m not a big reader, and I can’t pretend to know much about literature, or the intricacies and artistry of the English language. I am a Cornishman, and schooled in a Grange Hill fashion during the 1980s my CSE in English Language was perhaps achieved against the odds. My Degree in Creative Arts was also achieved without mastery of the English language.

Despite the above, I and many others can appreciate a good story and a good book.

I remember as a boy encountering the phenomenon of ‘the library angel’. The idea that, seemingly without direction, one might encounter the right book at the right time. You might wonder the shelves of the local library not knowing what might pique your interest. Without ambition or reason, a book would be seen, picked up, often at a moment of resignation. There’s probably a dozen or so times this has happened to me, where the said book turns out to be an illumination, a stimulation, a joy and an energising tonic!   Of course, there’s no real mystery in ‘the library angel’, one seeks, one decides to venture down a certain aisle, one chooses to look at a certain shelf, and one picks up the stimulating title. Or does one?

Although I am not a big reader, I have enjoyed numerous good reads at different stages of my life to-date. From frippery like the Jonasson’s ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’, through Stewart’s optimistic ‘Driving Over Lemons’, to my hallucinatory reading of Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’.

Before this year’s holiday, I had no idea what book I might take away. A ten minutes meander in the library was fruitless but at last minute I saw the ‘Classics’ display stand, and after a spin, I picked up Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’. Heaven knows why.

WOW! What a journey. It’s a captivating read. My mind lived the journey, smells, colours, grief, joy… Steinbeck really demonstrates the story’s world descriptively painting sensational scenes, events, emotions, and ideas. I can’t give you an analysis except to say what a powerful read. “Man’s inhumanity to man”, “a story of human unity and love as well as the need for cooperative rather than individualistic ideals during hard times.” To quote SparkNotes “Mournful, awed, enraged, sympathetic”. Thanks Leicestershire Libraries!

And so, as one thing leads to another, on returning from my holiday, we find in the library Steinbeck’s ‘East of Eden’. Another great read! Quite a different experience to GOW. But again, a sensational read. To quote Sparknotes; “The perpetual contest between good and evil”, “Philosophical; foreboding; nostalgic; hopeful”.

Those two experiences left me quite saturated; with images, feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes … 

And so I turned to the library and books again for some lighter relief.  No ‘library angel’ this time, but I did meet a neighbor in the library and she offered a casual suggestion. The blurb quotes “Non-stop action – this book delivers”.  At first sight, I thought hum ‘pop literature’, not sure if I fancied spending time on the literary equivalent of Gillette’s ‘a best a man can get’.  But, like much good pop culture, it was a feast for the senses. Great fun. So much so that after ‘The Sacred Sword’ I am now reading ‘The Armada Legacy’.  James Bond meets Jason Bourne, with a historical twist.

Books, stories, what might we be without them? Libraries, free public libraries, what might we be without them?

Reading is good for you.

Whether we are looking for education or entertainment, or a bit of both, the public library offers possibilities for discovery and personal growth. The loss of good public libraries would indeed be steps away from discovery and against the idea of free personal growth.
Reading helps; reduce stress, keep the brain in shape, educate, entertain, stimulate, boost empathy.
Reading fiction can simulate real-world problems and therefore has real consequences for the reader. Reading helps to engage mental skills at the same time as stimulating enjoyment, self-confidence, motivation and a sense of achievement.


What have you been reading? Dare you tell?


Something borrowed…

You know I’ve worked with Public Libraries for 16 years, but yes… I use them too!

We use the libraries with the kids but significantly I use them myself. Both registered at Leicestershire and Leicester City (could save money there Councillor!) I frequently borrow books, saving money and shelf space, creating social activity, exercise and interaction, and keeping my #tsundoku in check.

heyraedingisgood4you1For example: The book ‘Life after Life’ by Kate Atkinson* was recently recommended to me and after the default kneejerk action of a quick Amazon/Hive check I thought again… as I try to do…
An equally easy two-click search of my local County library showed a few copies but none currently available locally (It is easy to reserve a copy). Another check of the City Library (could save money and time there Councillor!) and bingo there it was! – I was passing the city library the following day so I picked it up. It’s FREE remember!

A library book… borrowed; not owned, not consumed and captured to be shelved withyour tsundoku. Borrowed, tasted, to be shared. There’s so much more to a library book to me the touch, feel, smell etc are bigger and deeper then a hot off the warehouse virgin copy. Coincidentally, I found another friend was reading the same title – I asked: “Just curious, ebook or real book?” She replied “Real. They smell better”. They do!

Yes, I am still an eBook fan and love the medium (you can get them from the library too) but the real book and the fact that you can borrow a shared copy easily from your library is just magic. You can then give it back for someone else to read.

When you’ve visited a library…
after first 10 minutes… Sights, sounds and yes smells; an abundance of knowledge, a wealth
After 30 minutes… You’ve discovered or perhaps passed by catalogued doors to new worlds
After 60 minutes… You have or perhaps are consumed, you can’t hope for anymore. Time to flee
After days and weeks… You’ve found new worlds. You’ve found new ideas
After years… The sights, sounds and yes smells linger. Knowledge, stories, memories and projections

#LoveLibraries. Use them, don’t lose them.

*incidentally, Life after Life by Kate Atkinson – A great read!


Julian Richards and Public Libraries

For 16 years I worked for ‘Bookmark People‘ and produced hundreds of bespoke library bookmark campaigns for public libraries throughout the country.
These ranged from small projects for individuals at localised sites, to large campaigns for overarching organisations such as local authorities, Welsh Libraries, The Reading Agency, The Society of Chief Librarians and Scottish Libraries and other regional bodies.
You can read some testimonials here: testimonials


Early in 2016, due to lack of support and sponsorship, the ‘Bookmark People‘ company ‘Central Community Press Ltd.’ called it a day.

However, libraries, readers and books still love bookmarks!
People love books#LoveLibraries and love their bookmarks.

Bookmarks are gifted, taken home by readers and read in a receptive environment.

From bananas to World War One, children’s designs to puzzling puzzles… bookmarks get taken home!

You can see all  my ‘Bookmark People’ work here ‘Bookmark People
I have also featured some of the work on this blog ‘library


Bookmarks into Schools.

I’ve mentioned my Bookmark People work before but, here’s a typical example where the ‘public library model’ and the ‘educational model’ of bookmark distribution needed to be re-managed to achieve specifically targeted distribution to suit all parties.

  • Ongoing use of the Local Public Library Bookmarks by our ‘supermarket’ client was proving successful. I’ve highlighted before how I produced Library Bookmark Projects that have been backed by local supermarkets in many parts of the UK.supermarketsmarch2015
  • However, a new target: Our client wanted to reach all ALL Primary School Children in Vale of Glamorgan, to promote the opening of a new local store in Barry. Our Schools supplier NACE could not facilitate ‘Supermarkets’ as a sponsor. I needed to negotiate an effective route to primary school children outside of our educational NACE model.
  • I consulted the local Libraries and ‘Libraries Wales’, as I had been involved in their national Library Card for Every Child campaign. I could see that using this initiative I could arrange for local libraries to route bookmarks into each primary school under the Libraries outreach remit and hence facilitate the supermarket sponsorship directly into the schools.voghomework
  • An added challenge was that the supermarket’s promotion was a stock commercial message which included a clothing pic and a cafe fast-food ‘burger’ pic – this, of course, was not ideal in an educational environment.  I discussed this with the client and suggested that we develop a more interactive educational child-centred promotion. I had used word-search puzzles and mazes etc before and I suggested this was an ideal interactive device to use to engage with the readers.

boyfrombarry“Mum, I’ve got a new bookmark, can we go to the library?

This young man, aged 7 from Barry, took his bookmark home!
His mum said “I go to the library every week. We love reading and we hire DVDs from the library a lot.”

See the council’s press-release here;

“The new …store at Barry Waterfront has backed a special library bookmark for every primary school pupil in the area scheme… The bookmarks list services available at Vale libraries — from homework help to e-books. They also act as a handy ruler, and feature a fun maze and word search on the back for children to complete.”


  • The result was a highly effective campaign that pleased all parties:
    The Sponsor ‘the supermarket’,  The Distributing Agent ‘local libraries’ and Distribution Outlets ‘the primary schools’.
    It was covered in the local press and celebrated by the libraries as a highly effective project.
    The supermarket reached 20,000 pupils via this celebrated campaign through local primary schools.

You can see here, a selection of comments I have received from various sources over the years – library bookmarks have been great resources; embraced, owned and put to good use by many UK libraries. Many sponsors have invested in the library bookmarks and in turn have seen their promotions reaching home.




Reading takes you further…

Another project I produced for ‘Bookmark People’ and used by a selection of public libraries ‘Reading takes you further’:



Children who read for pleasure are likely to do better in maths and English, research suggests. The study, indicated reading for pleasure was more important to a child’s development than how educated their parents were. See more here: Institute of Education, London University

Yes, reading takes you further and public libraries are an invaluable free resource!
Check Booktrust’s tips for reading together – sharing books with your child.


These are ©jules p richards, but are available for non-commercial use.

If you’d like a significant number let me know and I can supply high-quality artwork for professional reproduction.

Happy reading!


There’s books in them there hills!

CotswoldsJPRWhile walking with the folks in the Cotswolds this weekend I was reminded of people’s need to read, and the fact that communities use a ‘third place‘ whether as a water-cooler moment or a refuge away from home…  “escape with a good book!”

Laverton Book Exchange

As have many others, the village of Laverton, Gloucestershire, now seems to have its own “Book Exchange” I understand they have lost the once cherished GCC mobile library provision and the idea of using their old K6 phone box as a ‘book exchange’ has been realised. (kiosk number six – designed to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V)

“Despite the growth in digital technologies, there is still a clear need and demand within communities for modern, safe, non-judgmental, flexible spaces, where citizens of all ages can mine the knowledge of the world for free, supported by the help and knowledge of the library workforce,”

So said a report from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last year.

Just another observationPeople use libraries!

“A good book dies every time we switch on bad TV…”

The Bookmark People have been supporting libraries for more than 15 years with bespoke Promotional Library Bookmarks that spread the news in their unique inimitable way.

With digital advertising becoming the norm, returning to tactile touchy-feely print can set u apart!


Memories Live On

We recently had cause to search out some material that might help some primary school children think, talk, discuss, understand… people dying and “death”.  I was directed by many friends of friends (a beauty of the internet) to what turns out to be just the tip of a wealth of material, and I’d like to thank all of those people for their suggestions.

SunsetTallIn turn, as always, the local library has been a great help! (Do you use yours? Use it or lose it I fear!?)

I have yet to delve into many of the titles but, I thought I’d share the list here – you might have need of similar.

My selection of stories that relate to death:

  • Water bugs and Dragon flies (Looking Up), by Doris Stickney
  • Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley
  • The Heart in a Bottle, by Oliver Jeffers
  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen
    Also a friend of a friend also shared a great poem that starts:
  • A spider spun a silken web and swung from grass to ground… shared by Pat Bilsborrow

Here’s the full list: (in alphabetical order)

A spider spun a silken web and swung from grass to ground… (Author unknown) replicated below
All the dear little animals, by Ulf Nilsson and Eva Erikson
Always and Forever, by Alan Durant.
Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley
Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White
Dear Grandma Bunny, by Dick Bruna
Goodbye Mog, by Judith Kerr
Grandpa, by Raymond Briggs
I Miss You, a first look at death, by Pat Thomas
Little Elephant Thunderfoot, by Sally Grindley
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen
Muddles Puddles and Sunshine, by Diana Crossley illustrated by Kate Sheppard
No matter what, by Debi Gliori
Out of the Blue, by Winston’s Wish (Teenagers)
Tapestry, by Bob Hartman
The Day the Sea Went out and Never Came Back, (Helping Children with Feelings) by Margot Sunderland
The Goodbye Boat, by Mary Joslin
The Heart in a bottle, by Oliver Jeffers
The Soldier and Death: a Russian folk tale
The tenth good thing about Barney, by Judith Viorst
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume (teens and adults
Water bugs and Dragon flies (Looking Up), by Doris Stickney
When someone very special dies, by Marge Heegaard to be illustrated by children


A spider spun a silken web (Author unknown) shared by Pat Bilsborrow.

A spider spun a silken web and swung from grass to ground.
I must find out the news he said, thats buzzing all around.
The garden creatures great and small were quiet as a mouse,
they saw the caterpillar crawl into a tiny house.
She’s such a fool said the lady bird, whilst polishing her nails,
its the silliest thing I’ve ever heard, said a pair of solemn snails.
And all the creatures went away all thinking she was dead.
Until one bright and shiny day A little earthworm said.
I see a crack in the little shell, and something moves inside,
I see a head and wings as well, come quick and see, he cried.
The caterpillars back, they said, before their very eyes,
A butterfly stepped out and smiles at their surprise.
I left the life you thought I knew, you thought that I was dead.
I did it just to show to you, we die to grow. she said.




Read it! …it’s better than chocolate!

I recently created these tasty bookmark designs for the Bookmark People – feel good without the guilt!


If you don’t do dancing or swimming then pop to the library!

“A significant association was also found between frequent library use and reported wellbeing.” So says the DCMS studyQuantifying and Valuing the Wellbeing Impacts of Culture and Sport.

It found that you’re better off visiting the library than going to the gym!

Ranking different leisure activities and their ’worth’ to the people who take part in them, it finds that going to the library is beneficially valued at £1,359/year! It finds fitness activities, such as going to the gym, are actually associated with people being unhappier than they would otherwise be!?
ReadingBetterThanChocIt lists: Value of engagement in culture and sports
(per person/per month)
Dancing £139
Swimming £136
Visit libraries frequently £113
Team sports £94
Arts and Crafts £85
Seeing Plays £83
Individual sports £69
Music Concerts £62

So, forget that chocolate bar and that sweaty gym pass and pop down to your library! Be well!


There are worse crimes than burning books….

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I recently produced some material below for Bookmark People.

Reading takes you further…” 

I guess it follows on from my previous “reading” graphic that I produced. See here:



Quality beer and nuts…

fuzzineszEverything and anything, the whole wide world, at the touch of a button! brillyunt!?

I recently saw a post about a small church (remember them?) in north London. The local library(remember them?) and community centre was threatened by budget cuts and the church was discussing plans to offer space for a new library in their new church development.

Like many small towns, the population there is growing and more facilities, are needed – not fewer.  As might be expected, the church is looking to increase its “community involvement”.   Community Centres, Libraries, Churches, Health Centres and the like, are vital places where people have traditionally found information, help, succour and strength.  These places have in the past been vital assets for community integration and interaction.

All that happy-clapping, rainbow guitar straps, hearty singing, and WWYD stickers etc came later.   I’m told that originally “churches” (or synagogues in bible daze) were central places in communities where families (remember them?) might help each other, where widows, orphans, strangers etc might be ‘looked out for’.  The church would administer and manage support and help for those in need.  Over the last 100 years the government took over looking after the community’s heath, education, and wellbeing.  What was the church to do?  Sing another hymn? Also note that back in the day, “families” were not the 2 adults & 2.4 children of today (or even the growing 1 & 1.2 of contemporary life) – The fully functioning “family” was the grandparents, parents, bob’s ur uncle, aunties, brothers, sisters etc.

But now, you can get everything and anything at the touch of a button?

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”  King James Bible. or “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” The Message Mark 8:36

Yes we can and do get ‘loads of stuff’ all online…   or you can get everything at the uber-store… indeed you must get everything… ‘cos “every little helps” and “mum’s gone there”…

However it might be my age, and yes the Aldile’s do have some great deals but…

If I want a quality, value for money, bit of beef (and a chat) I go to the butchers…
If I want quality, value for money, fruit & veg (and a chat) I go to the green grocers…
If I want to browse for quality (and value for money!?) brain fodder (and a chat) I might go to the library…
If I want quality beer and nuts (and more importantly a chat) one might go to the pub…
If I want quality insight and support of well-being (and more importantly a chat) one might go to a church…

Real people, real places, and real life!?