The best of British eBooks – Askews

At Christchurch City Libraries we are blessed with three eBook platforms vying for our attention. There is OverDrive, the big flashy American one with the largest collection that also includes downloadable eAudiobooks. Then there is Wheelers which consists purely of New Zealand content and culture. Last but by no means least is Askews which primarily provides access to British content that is out of print or can not be found in OverDrive. It is not as well-known as the other platforms which is disappointing. Is it that classic British reserve that is its undoing? Its unwillingness to shout at the top of its lungs – I am here and I am amazing? In case it is I will agree to be its advocate and champion.

Cover of The Queen Cover of Behind the scenes at the museum Cover of Bring up the bodies Cover of Atonement Cover of A demon in my view Cover of Cold Granite Cover of The Collaborators Cover of Charlotte Gray

Askews has all the big names in current Brit lit such as authoresses Kate Atkinson, Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, and Ruth Rendell. Then we have the authors Sebastian Faulks, Bernard Cornwell, Ian McEwan, and Stuart MacBride. All this literary talent and more awaits you as we head into the silly season where your money is hoovered from your pockets. The fantastic thing about Askews is that you can borrow and place holds for free and never have to worry about overdues fees. What can I say, the library provides the cheapest entertainment this summer! So if you haven’t dipped your toes into Askews yet, please do.

Stig @ the Library comes to Christchurch

Kids at Queenspark School were super lucky to get visit from a rock star this week. Stig Wemyss, one of the most popular narrators of audio books for kids, visited the school as part of his ‘Stig at the Library’ NZ tour.

Stig Wemyss is an actor, writer and the voice behind heaps of children’s audio books.  If you have borrowed kid’s audiobooks from the library before you’re almost certain to have heard him read you a story that had you laughing out loud. He has narrated stories by the funniest authors around, including Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths.

Stig Wemyss at Queenspark School
Stig Wemyss at Queenspark School

According to Stig, narrators are the ‘rock stars of kids books,’ and he certainly showed us why. He treated the kids of Queenspark School to an hour of silliness and laughter.  He showed us what it takes to be a narrator and got heaps of the kids up the front with him to try his audition techniques.

He read one of Andy Griffith’s short stories from his book Just Stupid and had everyone engrossed in the story. It is no wonder that Stig is so popular because he is a natural performer who brings Andy Griffiths’ and Paul Jennings’ crazy, silly, hilarious stories to life.

Stig has been touring NZ to promote Borrow Box, a great new eResource that libraries around the country, including Christchurch City Libraries, now have available for customers.

Borrow box logoWith Borrow Box you can borrow and download eAudiobooks to your computer or mobile device whenever you like, wherever you like. There are heaps of eAudiobooks to choose from, including books by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton, Morris Gleitzman and Jackie French.

Check out Borrow Box now and download an eAudiobook read by Stig Wemyss.  I guarantee it will have you laughing out loud.

Happy Birthday Douglas Lilburn

Today is 100 years since the birth of NZ composer Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001). Stream some of his music!

LILBURN, D.: Violin and Piano Duos (J. Cormack, M. Houston)LILBURN, D.: String Quartet in E Minor / Phantasy / Canzonettas / Duos / String Trio (New Zealand String Quartet)LILBURN: Electro-Acoustic WorksLILBURN: Orchestral WorksFARQUHAR, D.: Prospero Dreaming / Suite / LILBURN, D.: Pieces for Guitar / 4 Canzonas (New Zealand Guitar Music) (Herbig)LILBURN, D.: String Quartet in E Minor / Violin Sonata / Duo / Canzonettas / String Trio (Riseley, New Zealand School of Music Chamber Players)LILBURN, D.: Piano Music (Houstoun)LILBURN: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 1LILBURN: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 2

Read more on our page on Douglas Lilburn.

Listen to RNZ National’s Douglas: Landscape of a New Zealand composer.

Read all about it at the British Newspaper Archive

British-Newspaper-Archive-220pwAt the British Library, there are over 32 kilometres of shelving that contain bound volumes of newspapers and over 13 kilometres of newspaper microfilm. Until now, the only way to view these newspapers was to visit the British Library and of course it was not possible to search them – until now.

The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership with the British Library to begin digitising this huge collection and make it available to researchers including us here in Christchurch.

What can I search?

  • News Articles – read about national events, as well as issues of local and regional importance;
  • Family Notices – search for your family’s birth, marriage and death notices plus related announcements including engagements, anniversaries, birthdays and congratulations;
  • Letters – read letters to the editor illuminating contemporary debates, aspirations and anxieties;
  • Advertisements – these include classifieds, shipping notices and appointments;
  • Illustrations – see photographs, engravings, graphics, maps and editorial cartoons.

So how do I start?

Due to license restrictions you can only access this eResource inside your local library. You will also need to first create your own account using your email address and password once you enter. Once this is done, you can freely access all content and organise all your research with your personal notes and bookmarks. My advice? Explore and be ready to lose track of time!

The hills are alive with the sound of BorrowBox!

This world we live in is full of noise. Most of that noise is jarring to the nerves and battering to the soul. Now you can escape all that clamour and disappear into the aural bliss of your favourite book. Let me introduce to you BorrowBox – your next escape plan from the reality of the world’s woes. It is an eAudiobook platform that allows you to download some of the world leading titles to your MP3 compatible mobile device (which is most of them) or computer. Just have a looksy at these titles…

Whale Rider_Library_CD_T15.inddCity of Bohane_Bolinda_1110_Lib_CD.inddBOL_053996_M_BOL_094927_COVER_MEDIUMBOL_005901_M_BOL_009994_COVER_MEDIUMPhryne Fisher TV Tie ins_ABC_1517.inddBOL_054264_M_BOL_103733_COVER_MEDIUMBOL_054278_M_BOL_103788_COVER_MEDIUMBOL_051738_M_BOL_073434_COVER_MEDIUM

Above is just a brief taste of the hundreds of titles that can be downloaded from BorrowBox. Have a play and download one of these titles today for your own enjoyment. You may not be an audio convert yet – but the ease in which you can use this service may bring you into the fold!


Charles Reginald Shaw: Father, surveyor, farmer

We’ve digitised another gem from 19th century Canterbury in the form of a diary kept by Charles Reginald Shaw.

Potrait of Charles Reginald Shaw
Babington, Thomas A, fl 1860s. [Babington, Thomas A] fl 1860s Attributed works :[Portrait of Charles Reginald Shaw 186-?]. Ref: B-132-001. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Shaw was born in Cheshire, England in 1829 and spent some time on the Australian goldfields before coming to New Zealand in 1857. Shaw was Surveyor for the Canterbury Provincial Government carrying out surveys on Banks Peninsula.

In 1861 he moved to Timaru and was District Surveyor there until 1877. His diary has daily entries and covers a period during this time, 10 December 1866 – 5 August 1872. It gives details of the sections he surveyed, how much money he paid people for various things (milk, butter, a horse!) as well as comments on social affairs, and family matters. Local tradespeople are mentioned as well as places and events like the opening of a new church.

The diary is full of industry and activity; building fences, laying out roads, plotting out land, and digging up carrots.

Though there are interesting insights into colonial life in Canterbury (the Canterbury anniversary holiday in 1866 is celebrated with, of course, a game of cricket) the most poignant story from the diary details the loss of Shaw’s daughter.

She may have been a sickly baby as there is more than one reference to her being ill in the diary and on Wednesday 20th of February 1867 Shaw reports that his wife Louise (often referred to as “Lou”) and the baby are both “very poorly” with colds and coughs. He stays at home rather than going to work but digs potatoes “most of the day”.

By Friday his wife has improved but the baby is worse. A Dr McLean is sent for. Again Shaw stays home. Over the weekend Shaw is “up all night nursing” the infant.

After a week of sickness the baby fails to rally prompting Shaw to consider administering a rather inadvisable “tonic”.

Thursday 28th: “Up all night again last night with the baby…slept in all morning and sent to the Royal for a bottle of sherry for the poor little baby – but it was all no use for the poor little thing died – about 1/2 past seven in the evening on Mrs Butler’s lap.”

Over the next few days Shaw makes funeral arrangements, registering the death, showing the grave digger which plot in the cemetery will be used and eventually putting “the little Bertha in her coffin”. On the Sunday baby Bertha is laid to rest.

March 3rd: “Buried my little daughter in the cemetery…”

Not everything in the diary is this poignant but the reality of 19th century life was that childhood illnesses did sometimes prove fatal.

After his tenure as Surveyor was over Shaw stayed in the area, farming 500 acres at Totara Valley, to the west of Pleasant Point until 1898. He was married twice and had a large family (five sons and nine daughters). He was active in the local community even in his older years and died in 1906.

He is buried at Timaru Cemetery in a plot he shares with Bertha, his wife Louise, and another of his daughters.

Further reading

The diary of Lester Priest, 1915

It will be a change to do something instead of sitting in a trench. I believe it will be our last scrap here as the men need a month’s or two month’s holiday and I believe the General has definitely promised the NZ & A troops a spell. They need it.
(Priest’s diary, PCol-Priest-084)

Image of Priest diary

Recently added to our digital collection: Arthur Francis Lester Priest : Diary 1915

A diary kept by Arthur Francis Lester Priest (1893-1915) from late 1914 to August 1915. The diary documents his experience in the first World War. The collection includes some memorabilia kept with the diary: a letter, newspaper clippings, postcard and photograph.

Arthur Francis Lester Priest served from 1914 to August 1915. He was killed at Gallipoli on 8 August 1915. Lester was mistakenly reported killed in June 1915, but then reported wounded several weeks later. The Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser reported on his death in August in November 1915:

After weeks of anxiety Mr and Mrs J. S: Priest of Chorlton have found that their youngest son, Lieut Lester Priest was killed at Gallipoli on August 8th. It appears that Lieut Priest was wounded in the terrible action held that day and was being carried down to the base hospital on a stretcher when a shell wounded the two stretcher bearers and wounded Lt Prtest mortally. He lived for a quarter of a hour after the disaster and asked for a cigarette while smoked. Chaplin McMenamin who returned by the Willochra last week was with him when he died and speaks in high terms ol his great bravery. He said he knew he was dying, but it was the death he would have chosen above all others. In June last his death was reported and he read his own obituary notioe. The sad part of the whole thing is that in some way his real death was not officially reported and his relatives were only told he had been wounded a second time. Since that date they had been enquiring in every hospital and naturally were unable to locate him. The late Lieut Priest was 21 years of age …

Finding your Ireland

There are few countries with a more complex socio-economic and political past than Ireland. There are also few countries in the world with stronger links to New Zealand than Ireland. Many people including my own ancestors fled in the Irish diaspora and crossed the World to make a new start here in Aotearoa. My Great Grandfather left Galway in the 1860s to arrive in Bluff and latter marry a local girl called Jane. Who his parents were, and how he felt about leaving them all behind, has been lost to the mists of time.


I would love to learn more but researching your Irish roots has always been difficult with many early Irish genealogical records lost to fire in 1922, during the Irish Civil War. While this makes things a little less straightforward there are still ways to trace and/or understand your family in Ireland and historic newspapers are one way to fill that gap. So let me present a new eResource to you – The Irish Newspaper Archives. The archives are designed to give you insight into 300 years of Irish history through 40 searchable Irish newspapers, many unavailable anywhere else. Have a play with it from home or in libraries. As the Irish quote says – You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind. So get on with it and see what you can find!

Take a tumble with TumbleBooks

FloraAndUlysses_200TumbleBooks are created by adding animation, sound, music and narration to existing books. We have access to two TumbleBook eResources:

TumbleBook Library is for kids. It contains a wide range of fiction and nonfiction titles including titles by Geronimo Stilton and Kate DiCamillo. These titles can be experienced in either automatic or manual mode. In automatic mode, the pages turn by themselves and are narrated. In manual mode, the narration is turned off and kids turn the pages at their own speed. Online puzzles and quizzes associated with the book can help with reading comprehension. If you know a reluctant reader who needs a bit more magic in their books to hold their attention then this could be the solution.

TumbleBookCloud is for teens. It has a read-along chapter books, audiobooks, drama and poetry and graphic novels. With these titles you can adjust the text size, line width and spacing, font style and colour. The enhanced novels include chapter/plot summaries, character sketches, and quizzes. The graphic novels could be particularly useful in getting teens who have little interest in the written word engaging with literature.

Have a play and spread the word about these two eResources available to you 24/7 with your library card number and password/PIN.

When “Plus” size is good news!

There is something about spring and the arrival of longer nights that makes the blood in your veins get all itchy. Before you know it you are ready to shake off the winter inertia and pull weeds in the garden and donate clothes that are no longer your size and never will be again.

Australia New Zealand reference centre plus logoEverything likes a tidy up and our eResources are no different. This year our popular Australasian eResource Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre has undergone an upgrade and expanded into “Plus” size territory.

What this means is that it has added more content including a number of new journal titles including Australian Financial Review and Choice, which is basically the Australian version of Consumer. I love Choice as it has just released its “Shonkys” for 2015basically awards for the worst in consumer products. They have pointed the finger this year at Kleenex flushable wipes which are only flushable if you want a visit from your plumber!

Designed for libraries in Australia and New Zealand (a rarity in itself), Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre Plus combines Australasian magazines, newspapers and online reference books to create a large collection of regional full text content. There are also full text biographies and a collection of images containing more than one million photos, maps, and flags (but which one?).

So have a look at this new Plus size eResource for your New Zealand or Australian research needs. It will help make everything “sweet as”.

You also might like to check out our other Australia/New Zealand eResources