Children’s Laureate backs Notts pledge to keep every library open during Mansfield visit

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Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson has welcomed Nottinghamshire County Council’s commitment to keeping all of its libraries open as part of a visit to Mansfield Central Library yesterday.

Mansfield was picked from 100s of applications to be one of only 24 libraries on the English and Welsh leg of the Children’s Laureate Libraries Tour this autumn.

Schoolchildren from High Oakham Primary School, Mansfield, attended the invitation-only event, where Julia brought some of her hugely popular stories to life through special dramatisations. Around 60 children, aged seven and eight, performed Vegetable Attack in the Dining Room, which is a poem created by two members of staff and involved Julia Donaldson book characters.

Nottinghamshire County Council has not only pledged to keep all 60 of its libraries open – bucking the national trend of library closures – but also has a multi-million pound ten-year Library Strategy to enhance and improve library services.

Mansfield is one of the most recent libraries in the county to benefit as part of £3.4m investment.

Julia said: “I am pleased to hear that Nottinghamshire County Council is committed to keeping libraries open, as it realises that once a library closes within a community, it is difficult to reopen again. It is also good to visit a library such as Mansfield and see the recent investment which has gone into this building. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting with children from the local school and we had a fun morning of activities.”

Julia was joined on the tour by her musical husband Malcolm – who recently retired from his career as a paediatrician – on stage at the events and on the road in the Laureate Libraries Tour van. The husband and wife duo, who spent their student summers busking in France, are celebrating their Ruby wedding anniversary whilst on the tour. They took part in a special workshop with the children followed by a book signing session.

As part of her Children’s Laureateship, Julia Donaldson – bestselling author of over 150 books including The Gruffalo, What the Ladybird Heard and Zog – is embarking on a tour of libraries that will take in England, Wales and Scotland, from John O’Groats to Lands’ End, over six weeks, commencing on 10 September in Thurso in the Hebrides and finishing on 18 October in Carlisle. The tour will celebrate libraries as a precious community resource.

Coun John Cottee, Culture Committee chairman for Nottinghamshire County Council said: “The visit of Julia Donaldson and her husband Malcolm to Mansfield Central Library as part of her Children’s Laureate Libraries Tour helps to raise the profile of what we are trying to do to not only preserve – but enhance our library services. Her visit helps to focus our attention on our strategy and we were very pleased to welcome her to Nottinghamshire. It was a fantastic morning and a wonderful treat for two classes from High Oakham Primary School.”

Julia embarked on her two year tenure as the seventh Children’s Laureate in June 2011. At the ceremony in which she was awarded the Waterstones Children’s Laureate medal for 2011-2013, Julia announced that her main focuses would be ‘drama, music, stories for deaf children, libraries…. linked to the biggest thing of all – the pleasure and richness to be gained from reading.’

The role of Children’s Laureate is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field. Former Children’s Laureates include Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen.

Julia Donaldson is the author of over 150 books and plays for children and teenagers, including The Gruffalo (the animation of which was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA), Room on the Broom, Stick Man, Cave Baby, Freddie and the Fairy and What the Ladybird Heard – some of the UK’s best-selling picture books – and the award-winning teenage novel Running on the Cracks. In 2010, Donaldson was the most borrowed children’s author from UK libraries. Her latest books Superworm (Alison Green Books) and The Paper Dolls (Macmillan Children’s Books) will be published in autumn 2012.