libraries & archives

A new Public Libraries Act for Wales

February 8, 2019 4 Comments
A new Public Libraries Act for Wales

One of the saddest features of our age is the rapid decline of the public library.  What was once a crucial and heavily used part of local public provision has become, with some exceptions, a starved, neglected and run-down service. According to the latest CIPFA statistics for the UK, spending on public libraries dropped again, […]

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In search of 100 objects

September 30, 2018 0 Comments
In search of 100 objects

September 2018 has turned out to be a month of personal endings. Three weeks ago, after five and a half years of sporadic legwork, we finished the last mile of the Wales Coast Path. This week saw the publication of two books I’ve been working on for what seems almost as long, Wales in 100 […]

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The Mundaneum

July 22, 2018 0 Comments
The Mundaneum

Until last week I’d never heard of the Mundaneum.  But it’s such an exceptional institution that it deserves to be much better known. To visit the Mundaneum as it is today you need to go the Wallonian city of Mons and search out the Rue de Nimy.  There, in an adapted department store, you’ll find […]

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Popeth yn Gymraeg, yn llythrennol

February 2, 2018 0 Comments
Popeth yn Gymraeg, yn llythrennol

Beth sydd ei angen er mwyn cyrraedd miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg erbyn y flwyddyn 2050?  Llawer o bethau, heb os, ond un ohonynt yw cynnydd mawr iawn yn y maint o’r deunydd yn Gymraeg sydd ar gael i bobl – pethau i’w darllen, i’w gweld, i’w glywed. Ystyr ‘ar gael’, y dyddiau hyn wrth gwrs, […]

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Reading and silence

August 20, 2017 1 Comment
Reading and silence

I’m working my way, slowly – that seems the best way – through Sara Maitland’s A book of silence, and I’ve reached the part where she discusses the paradoxical relationship between reading and silence.  On the one hand, reading the way we do it today is a silent communion between writer and reader.  Silent, on […]

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Micromuseums

April 15, 2017 1 Comment
Micromuseums

Micromuseum is a new word for me.  But that was the topic of a presentation to the Friends of the Glynn Vivian last week by Fiona Candlin of Birbeck College.  It was the ideal talk – funny and self-deprecating but full of ideas that rattled your lazy assumptions about what museums are about.  And it […]

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The destruction of culture: a plea to Swansea Council

March 13, 2016 7 Comments
The destruction of culture: a plea to Swansea Council

What makes a city a city?  I mean, in the sense of a particular, distinctive city.  Its people, certainly, its geography, landscape and architecture, also its economy and politics.  But what really sets a city apart from its neighbours is its culture – that network of traditions, customs, institutions and habits, most of them with […]

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Moby-Dick and the poor devil of a Sub-Sub

November 15, 2015 1 Comment
Moby-Dick and the poor devil of a Sub-Sub

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) is a book that, once read, will never leave you. Its themes are as close as a book’s themes can be to the essence of being human. Its symbol – ‘symbol’ is a poor choice of word – of the great white whale will stalk your imagination, waking or asleep, for […]

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The beautiful librarians are dead: academic librarians and the crisis in public libraries

June 28, 2015 6 Comments
The beautiful librarians are dead: academic librarians and the crisis in public libraries

An adapted version of a talk given to Welsh academic librarians at the WHELF Gregynog Colloquium on 15 June 2015. The city of Kingston upon Hull is famous for its poets, among them Andrew Marvell in the seventeenth century, and Douglas Dunn and Philip Larkin in the twentieth. Hull’s best known contemporary poet is Sean […]

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