Libraries and Balkan immigrant(s)

I’ve been in living in the UK for 15 years now. When I talk about Croatia, I don’t say ‘back home’ any more. I stopped saying ‘back home’ quite a while ago. UK felt like home just a few months after I arrived. I love living here. For so many different reasons. One of the things that stuck with me was that there was a lot of green. Green meadows, green hills, green parks (and Green Park). The grass really looked greener here, on the UK side, than back on the Balkans. No pun intended.

One of the first places I wanted to go to, if not the first place, just a few days after I settled into my new routine was a local library. I had no cassette/ CD player yet and was looking for something to read in the evening. And I was curious to see if ‘their’ libraries were any different than ‘ours’ ‘back home’.

File:Public library interior, Woking England.jpg,_Woking_England.jpg

One day, I just went in, exchanged polite greetings with the librarians and just had a good look around. As far as I remember that particular small town library was only on one floor. Apart from just books and archives, there was also an audio book section, a CD section, a video section, magazine section, section with maps (A-Z) of different places in the country and a career section slimming supplements.

I never heard of any library having tapes/CDs and videos, let alone a careers section. Well, not a Balkan library in my hometown, anyway. Not that I’ve visited that many libraries ‘back home’, da se razumijemo (let’s make that clear). I haven’t even been to 10 different libraries, so it’s not like I’m an expert on libraries and what they should have and how they should look like. I just assumed they were all pretty much the same, in principle.

Without wanting to sound like a grumpy old woman, from what I can remember in my time, CDs and tapes were bought, and there were places where you went to rent a video. Not libraries. This just seemed rather different to me. A very good different.

When I asked if I could join the local library where I had lived at the time, I was told that I don’t need to pay any joining fee!!! I couldn’t believe my ears!!! I needed a letter from my host family (I was an au pair then), and a photo ID; to confirm who I was and where I lived. And the best part was, that I could borrow more than 2-3 books. I can’t remember now whether it was 9 books (15 years ago) maximum or more for not 2, but 3 weeks!!! I was shocked! That was just brilliant!! 😀 😀 😀 And that wasn’t all!

The libraries here (local ones) are government run. That explains the lack of joining and membership fees, because it comes out of our taxes. This has its limitations, as the budget belts are getting tighter and tighter *blows raspberry*. All the libraries in a county (zupanija) are connected, so you can reserve and borrow books from another library in your county if your local doesn’t have the book you need. If you’d like to return your books/items on loan out of working hours, there is a drop box available.

Libraries also have a fantastic little trolley where they were selling less popular or very slightly damaged books, for a superb price! Sheer heaven, I tell you, for a bookworm like me! These days you can now borrow e-books if you have the right (read: up to date) gadgetry / e-readers.

There are mobile libraries, too. I never needed to use them. It’s like a mini library on wheels for the areas without library buildings (small villages or some suburbs). Mobile LibraryMobile Library

The 'Marsh Mobile' library van at Burgh-le-Marsh Roman weekend. Credit: Joe Blissett


This is a pic from an old (2008) article, but I thought it would be funny to put it in here to illustrate the point of mobile libraries and their role in communities

There are many other useful things in our (UK) libraries, like little exhibitions, careers service, council help desk, etc. But more about that next time, if you’re interested. This was intended as little teaser post to see if you (non-UK readers) would like to know more about my immigrant library experience(s). Or if you’re from UK, maybe you’d like to read about impressions of someone who likes your libraries for reasons different to you? I would like to know what our Balkan libraries are like now.

Seeing Red (Pun Intended)


March was endometriosis awareness month. And in order to raise awareness about endometriosis, a crippling, chronic gynaecological condition affecting 10% of women worldwide. Despite the condition being nearly as common in the UK as diabetes, not much is known about this condition. Not only that, but it takes forever to be diagnosed with it, despite numerous visits to the doctors and hospitals.

I have been suffering from it for a number of years and wanted to help a friend who was told she will have to have an operation soon. Being a woman biologist, I wanted to also get to know the devil inside me and learn about it as much as I could. The more recent knowledge, the better. Not just so I can help myself, and hopefully my friend to make a decision, but also to be able to write about it and spread the word.

So, logically the first thing to do is to go to is PubMed Health, right? If you’re not a bookworm and don’t want to know and learn EVERYTHING you possibly can about endo, down to molecular mechanisms and gene expression, than that might be enough. If you’re like me and you need to know every bloody (no pun intended) detail, then you might want to go to PubMed and look up some good Nature Reviews and see what’s new in the endo field.

NatRevEndo_endo_pathogen-Th_02I found what I thought would be a really good review to read. And tried to access it. With my university Athens account. Then through Wellcome Library. I even called a woman there at the library desk and asked if she could help me find it and download it. For some reason, this review isn’t accessible. You want it? You buy it! I had a little rant about it on my Facebook page the other day, then decided to write a ranting post about it, too; after I was unable to attend the Endo March in London this past Saturday (28th March); because it still really irritates me.

We can still spread the word about endo and raise awareness, but for endo sufferers, spreading the word is not enough. It would be nice to be able to educate ourselves and others who look at us uncomfortably and dismiss our crippling symptoms as just period pain and tell us it’s all normal or all in our head. How are we to help ourselves if we can’t even access the current knowledge about it?!

Yes, there are other papers and other reviews and books, but that’s not the point. The point is that if we want it, we have to pay for it. Which makes it a lot more difficult to raise awareness with a lot of other people, like professionals who should know about it more than we, the patients, do. So if you don’t have access to certain publications, tough. It’s life, deal with it! The more I ruminate on it, the more I think that someone wants us ‪endo sufferers to spend a lifetime in ‪‎pain and ‪‎depression, so we’d continue buying ‪‎painkillers and ‪contraception meds and ‪‎antidepressants and HRT.  Why on Earth would anyone need ‪#‎freeaccess to ‪#‎scientificpapers and knowledge out there?!? Why have open access, when we can all be painfully kept in the ‪#Dark Ages. If it weren’t for our pain, there’d be no someone else’s gain.

Rant over.

I wish I was able to attend the London Endo March on Saturday, I’d have met some great people, walked this frustration off, and had more cheerful material to write about and some great pics to share with you. To those who went: thank you for going it. I was with you in my thoughts.

Do you suffer from endometriosis? Or do you know someone suffering from it? Feel free to vent your endo thoughts with me here.