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Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library
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Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  599 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Chris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis.

We'll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically,
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 2nd 2017 by Constable
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it
If I didn't work in a Library I would probably have marked this a little lower and considered it fiction as opposed to non fiction. Mind you, I'm 'only' a volunteer Librarian and Mr Paling often gets close to being a bit sniffy about them. 
My Library is very small, used by a rural community in a Yorkshire Dales village. It is 100% run by volunteers - every aspect - and has been for some years now. We manage just fine thank you. And that's without the luxury of calling on a facilities team to
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
Until the tsunami of information arrived via the internet back in the 1990's we were reliant on libraries as those of us who didn't have the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home needed to find out those details another way. I read a fair amount, as you may have gathered by now and I am fortunate enough to get many books through the post every month for me to read, however, I still go to the library at least once a week. Often twice... And still come back with way too many library books, at least tha ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I work in a library, and I've always said that if all the library staff wrote their memoirs of their working day it would be a best-seller! This may not be a best-seller....yet but it's definitely worth a read.

A few weeks back I saw there being a flurry of activity with this book coming in and going out. Curiosity got the better of me, and I looked more closely and found that a large number of library staff I work with had either read this book or had it on reserve. So, not one to be left out,
Helen White
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Fuck. This is my life
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Paling works in an unidentified city library somewhere in the south of England. Here he recounts a range of stories about life on the frontlines of a modern library. This is brilliant if, like me, you work in a library similar to this. It's not all sweet little old ladies reading Catherine Cookson. ...more
The Librarian Witch
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable and very fast read.

I'm sure that much of my enjoyment came from the fact that I am a librarian myself, so could relate to pretty much everything within this book.

The author could even have been writing about the libraries in which I work.
The similarities were so vast.

However, in some places I found myself thinking that the author couldn't be a very nice librarian.
He says and does some things which I wouldn't do myself in this job and which I don't think fit with wha
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably a must-read, if you have ever worked in a public library. The author has taken a post as a library assistant in a central library in an unspecified southern English town (got my suspicions where, but it's anonymous for obvious reasons). My public library experience was 6 years in a reference library in London, and 8 years as a branch librarian in Wales, and of the two the London reference library was brought to mind more by this book - the daily incidents, the regular users of the libra ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Too balanced to be merely whimsical, elegiac or polemical, RA is an absorbing case-study of yet another fine historic institution and its modern tribulations. There are human stories (are there any other kind?) laced with digressions on books, writing, Dewey, the history of libraries and all the things a mind can turn to in such a rich environment. Musing on the library at Alexandria is interrupted by a customer saying that the toilets are blocked. A fight breaks out over newspapers. Struggles a ...more
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I work in libraries, and Paling has written an account so similar to my own that at points I questioned whether a colleague had written it, or if I had even forgotten writing a book myself! Paling shows us that libraries are so much more than books; they are hubs for the community; safe spaces; unsafe spaces; lacking in funding; loved and lost. If anyone ever asks me if all I get up to in a library is just shelving books I'll refer them to Reading Allowed. I also really liked the additions that ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I had high hopes for this book as I have worked in both public and education libraries and you do come away from a days work with many hilarious and unbelievable stories. The book started off well enough and I recognised many of the 'characters' you get to know, but as the book went on Paling seemed to run out of material. I didn't welcome the history lesson he kept trying to weave in as I thought the book was purely anecdotal. He also appears pretty judgemental at times which grated. Overall it ...more
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
liked this book detailing the daily life of librarian staff in southern England in this the era of library closures and cuts and had to laugh at some of the customers mentioned. overall was an easy read and was a random selection from my local library.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I absolutely love libraries, and have done since I was a young child. Paling is a librarian and I expected a lively, funny, informative read, with maybe a polemic or two detailing his experiences and opinions. Goodness knows, the 'c' word and ill informed politicians (Cameron said the internet has replaced the need for libraries), have systematically decimated these treasured institutions. Library users come from the whole social spectrum. And the history and impact of libraries is astonishing. ...more
Karen Keane
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
An easy to read, enjoyable book, although a lot of pleasure came from the book because work in a library myself and can identify with many of the situations and customers. It certainly shows that library work isn't the 'pleasant little job' people think it is. A funny and entertaining book. ...more
Laura Taylor
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This brought back so many memories of my brief period working in a public library. Such wonderful stories and characters. A reminder of the huge social service and community role the library and its staff serve on a daily basis and how so many people are dependent on its existence. An easy book to pick up and down but I found I couldn’t put it down. I understand most of the stories are based on Brighton public library - a microcosm of that city - all human life is there. My partner currently vol ...more
This was enjoyable, though the stories told about life in this particular library sometimes felt sadder more than charming. The stories that made me sad illustrate the unique role libraries have in communities. The particular time this book is written was interesting to me because I lived in England at the time the libraries were facing these cuts, and my husband was a library volunteer in our local branch, so much of this was familiar.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
DID NOT FINISH ... Reading Allowed: true stories and curious incidents from a provincial library / Chris Paling ... 24 August 2017
ISBN: 9781472124715

A serious disappointment.

I confess I'd never heard of Chris Paling when I asked my local library to purchase this book. It turns out he's written nine novels, written a play that's toured the UK, and works as a BBC radio producer. He also works in a local library – although he's on a zero hours contract which makes me wonder if he took the job simpl
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I worked in public libraries for thirteen years so thought this might be an entertaining read that I could relate to. It was that, but it failed to really hit the mark. I think it was trying too hard to be intellectual and inject pathos into the job. On the flipside, I hope this book helps to open people's eyes to what it is really like to work in a library. It amazes me how so many have this image of libraries as hushed places, filled with books, and where the staff read all day. ( I wish! ) Th ...more
Susan Corcoran
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love reading and libraries and so I was immediately attracted to this book.

I'm glad to say it is charming and a very funny read at points. In is also very moving in places, as the writer describes the fact that libraries are not just about books, they also provide warmth and shelter to many of societies less fortunate people.

I would highly recommend this book to all book lovers.
Sophy H
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book had it all! Humour, sadness, anger, frustration, joy. Everything that encompasses being a human.

Ultimately libraries are places of human contact, albeit sometimes for a few minutes whilst perusing the ethereal world of books.

I laughed a lot at the human "types" Chris Paling experiences in his librarian job, and have witnessed first hand at least three of the types he discusses, in my own local library. Similarly, I have seen how it can be the highlight of the week for some elderly an
Philippa Sevigny
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book should be read by everyone with a vested interest in Libraries. Particularly those that make decisions about what they do. These 'tales from the library counter' highlight the wide range of goings-on at a Library - often well beyond book-borrowing. Admittedly, I'm glad we haven't had the sewer difficulties, but we have our share of the homeless sheltering from weather, argumentative customers, failing computer systems and overcrowding at exam season for this to be familiar territory.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I deleted my early thoughts about this book.
This is a well written book and shows quite well the life and the most recent events in England, current affairs, lack of funding and redundancies in public libraries. The author did a great job in describing every day life in public library, importance of libraries especially in the lives of more mature population. I was surprised how many people have nowhere to go except to the library and how the particular library helped with understanding and help
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable, i suspect whether you've worked in a library in the South of England or not. ...more
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
For all those who love their libraries or used to dwell in them when they were young...Makes you realise how vulnerable they are today. Well written, nice book.
Krystelle Zuanic
Sep 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Please note this is a 3.5.

Every time I read a book like this, from the perspective of a librarian or a bookseller, I end up with a bit of an itch to just pivot in respect to careers entirely and fully immerse myself in books. It's not that I don't enjoy the career I'm presently working towards- it's more that I enjoy the combination of people watching and literature far more than anyone in their right mind has a penchant to do. It just calls to me in an irrevocable way. I love books like this,
Sheila Wyver
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Ranges from facts about the Dewey system and library closures to the huge array of customers that cross the threshold from all walks of life. Funny, sad, compassionate, just so good. A cast of thousands all with their own problems in life. Wish it had been longer. Particularly loved the bookmarks left behind in books. Keep libraries open! We all need them!
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book was like looking in a mirror! Public library characters are the same everywhere. If you’ve ever thought you would love to work in a library because you love books and reading, read this for some idea of the reality. It can be a tough gig.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading this felt like people-watching in the very interesting and eclectic setting of a local authority-run library. Which was as relaxing as it was entertaining.

Also contains commentary on social isolation, learning disabled people and cuts in public spending.

Loved it!
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book about customers that come into a library in England. The author describes the regulars with great detail. For anyone who works in a library you will enjoy it. I had to get the book through Inter-Library Loan.
Barrie Bromley
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the first time that I've read a book by this particular author and, I really enjoyed it.

Apparently, this is a story about the author's experiences working in a large provincial library and, is made up of a series of vignettes relating encounters with various people who use the library on a day to day basis. At the time Paling was working in the library, local councils in the UK were cutting back on library provision and, Paling uses the book to provide a defence of libraries as a resour
Rachael (pagesofpiper)
A very thought provoking book about libraries. It demonstrates what it's like working in public libraries and how they are more than just books. But towards the end it touches on the cuts that have been made to the service not just in their town/city but throughout the country. You never know when you need your local library, at some point in your life you will step through the doors to the library. Councils throughout the country see libraries as an easy target to cut, even though Local authori ...more
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Born in 1956 in Derby, Chris Paling studied social sciences at the University of Sussex. He started working as a studio manager for BBC radio in 1981. In the early 90s he had a Thirty Minute Theatre play called Way Station produced on BBC Radio 4. He wrote more radio plays and later began writing novels.

Chris Paling is married with two children, Sarah and Thomas, and lives in Brighton.

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