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Top draw: University of Sussex library staff immortalised in pencil by leading illustrator

Author and illustrator Chris Riddell met and sketched staff and students during a day at the University of Sussex library.

The work of University of Sussex library staff has been celebrated in a series of beautiful sketches by renowned author and illustrator Chris Riddell.

The former children’s laureate spent the day in the university’s grade II* listed library sketching the hard-working library team as they went about their daily duties.

The Brighton-based illustrator also spent time meeting with students to talk about the inspiration for his work and to read from his recently published poetry anthology, Poems to Live Your Life By.

Some of the sketches will be retained within the University of Sussex art collection and put on display in an exhibition to highlight the wide range of services library staff offer to students, staff and - increasingly - members of the public.

Jane Harvell, Director of Library Services and University Librarian at the University of Sussex, said: “Having Chris here capturing both the work of the librarians and the students has been such fun – a perfect way to celebrate the importance of the library in our students’ education.”

Mr Riddell, who is also the political cartoonist for the Observer, is the multi-prize winning author of the Goth Girl and Ottoline series and the revered illustrator of works by authors Neil Gaiman and Paul Stewart. He served as the UK’s Children Laureate between 2015 and 2017.

The 56-year-old is a passionate advocate of libraries and actually started his career as a part-time library assistant working at Coulsdon Library in London.

Mr Riddell said: “It really was a pleasure to spend a day in a university library and to see how it really is a well-used hub within the institution. It’s been an enthralling experience. I’ve visited many libraries, school libraries, public libraries and it has been really fascinating to come into a university and see the role of the library here. It’s been really lovely to meet so many of the library staff and to chat with students about books and what they are studying.

"One of the things I most enjoyed was a student who told me they take a study break of 4/5 minutes just to sit and draw as a way to relax, which I just think is a wonderful thing.”

Among those to meet with Mr Riddell on Thursday (29 November) was long-term fan and University of Sussex student Hannah Hunt, who received a personalised sketch of Barnaby Grimes, the title character of the much-loved series by Mr Riddell and Paul Stewart.

The 21-year-old biology student from Heathfield said: “I was really excited to come and meet him today and it was pretty surreal to have him sketch for me, he was my favourite illustrator when I was growing up. He was the author who got me into reading fiction books. When I was younger I couldn’t see the point to them until a friend on holiday lent me Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf and I just thought it was absolutely incredible.

"I really like his lack of colour, his sharp very definitive lines and how the work lies somewhere between fantasy and reality.

"I come to the university library about five days a week. It has a really good mix of work environments so that you can work in some areas with groups and in other areas you can go for silent study. I just really love libraries, I do most of my studying within the library.”

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Friday, 30 November 2018