Thursday, 20 July 2017

The extra-sensory library book campaign, scent your reads!

 I read a lot of novels.

My love of books was instilled at an early age by my mum who took me to Garstang library every week to borrow an armful of magical free words. 

 The peculiar 60s architecture of Garstang Library

Each night I send myself to slumber via another world; a curious country, an eerie haunting, a torrid love affair or simply the complexities of someone else’s life. My arms cradle the book ‘praying mantis’ style whilst Joseph purrs away under an elbow. 

Most towns in the UK had a library until about 5 years ago when the government cut funding under austerity. Big cities had many branches with the largest ‘central’ library housed in a grand municipal building. Many of the smaller suburban libraries closed forever whilst others now survive on limited hours as volunteer run organisations.

On average, I read about two novels per week, they are free. If I bought them, my reading habit would likely cost me at least £100 per year assuming that I shopped thriftily in charity shops, or up to £700 if I bought shiny new ones from Waterstones. 

We need to support them.

My local library in Huddersfield is a quirky venue where alongside newly releases titles, you can find a selection of the bizarre and unconsidered. Whilst browsing the health and beauty section this morning I discovered that alongside Lizzie Ostrom’s ‘Perfume - A century of scents’ and Sally Hornsey’s two make your own skincare and perfume manuals, you can find books about both DIY welding and the history of arsenic. This could be handy if you are planning a murder and an evidence burial in a skilfully sealed metal box. 

Bonkers genre combo

Library books can smell a bit stale. Whilst new releases still retain a delicious inky print whiff on their fresh unblemished pages, older titles can sometimes carry an ‘eau de damp portacabin’ or more worryingly ‘unidentifiable fragrant stain’ which might be a bit of spilt Ovaltine if you’re lucky.

I scent my library books, and I choose their fragrance with great consideration. 

I imagine that most of my readers have a sizeable stash of promotional fragrance smelling strips as a quick sniffing to trip to the department store usually results in pockets full of the things. They’re pretty, I keep them. But best of all, they make wonderful bookmarks. 

One night I sprayed the last dregs of my Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles onto a smelling strip and allowed it’s pine sap fragrance to seep into my book. The book was Eowyn Ivey’s haunting forest populated novel ‘The Snow Child’. By the following night the isolated atmosphere of it’s Alaskan location was amplified by the harmonious whiff. I recently read the wonderfully spooky ‘Dolly’ by Susan Hill (of Woman in Black fame). I fragranced this with Antonia by Pure Distance, allowing it’s vintage dusty greenery to evoke the ivy clad derelict house conjured in the story.

I like to imagine that the next borrower will pick up on the fragrance, perhaps so subtly that instead of detecting a ‘perfume’, my scenting activities will simply add to the power of the words, providing an extra-sensory dimension. Perhaps if we all start to do this library books will take on new powers to thrill the imagination?

Caron whiffing cards have the perfect dimensions for a bookmark

In discussion with friends, suggestions were made about possible perfume partners for their favourite books. War and Peace was partnered with a fragrance fit for nobility - Zibeline by Weil, Practical Magic amped it’s spells with Moonlight Patchouli by Van Cleef & Arpels and 50 Shades of Grey was sullied by the notorious Secretions Magnifique. A wonderfully vile idea!

I hope that my readers might join me in my guerrilla book scenting campaign. However, if you’ve gone over to the dark side and become the owner of an e-reader, your local library has oodles of free e-books in it’s catalogue so at least you can support their 21st century service updates by joining up and helping to promote literacy in the UK.

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  1. I love this and might start doing it if i can get myself back to the library. I did so much reading of research papers and books for a diploma and degree a few years ago that i have not read a book since. I am now missing them, but i have dry eyes and need glasses that magnify so reading has become more unappealing if i cant magnify a small typeface. I shall perhaps go and see what is available in the 'old lady' big type! I may frighten the next reader with my choice of scent on the pages *hehehe*

    1. Oh dear! I hear you Patsi. I have taken a tip from my mum and gone primarily for hardbacks which tend to have bigger type than paperbacks.

      I just can't bring myself to go and get reading specs (though I do need them). My sister has but she is 9 years older than me and I don't want to catch her up just yet. I have 'tested' them in TK Maxx against the small print on some body lotion packaging and they are blooming brilliant. Maybe it's time...

      I think you can order in large print versions of the books you want for nowt though? Not sure if they have every title in large print but they defo have new releases available at mine.

    2. Excellent news - if my local library can order in large print new releases, that would be great! I shall go and investigate in the next wee while! ps. take care of your eyes and get glasses if you need them chicken! xox

  2. Garstang! I had a boyfriend whose father lived in the big house attached to the nearby caravan park - his funeral there was the first I ever attended. I may have missed the library...;)

    I hadn't even noticed all the small libraries had vanished, but I can well imagine they have. I have so many unread books from when I was flusher than currently that I haven't had recourse to libraries lately. I do still have the odd splurge in charity shops - got three books for a pound the other day. Also, I don't read anywhere near as much as you - am aiming for a book a month at the moment! - so that keeps the cost down.

    As for guerrilla scenting library books, I think that is fantastic, though the anti-perfume brigade might find it morally questionable. Hey, it's got to be better than 'eau de Portakabin' or even Ovaltine! It definitely adds an extra sensory dimension to one's reading pleasure, as long as the chooser knows what they are about. Imagine if a Jackie Collins were to be doused in Giorgio, for example?

    1. Garstang is an odd little town, I went to school there. It's full of pretty houses and the countryside is pleasing (if flat agricultural land is your thing) but it's one of those places where folk go to get absolutely splattered. The many pubs are carnage.
      Three books for £1 is a bargain. I only ever buy novels when I'm travelling so I can chuck them away instead of lugging them bag in the suitcase. I'll try and root out a similar deal next time I board a plane.