Recently I read a short review in The Age newspaper about this book so, as a librarian, I decided to reserve a copy of The Librarian by Sally Vickers from the library.
I worked as a children's librarian in the late 1960s so as the main character in this book, Sylvia Blackwell, began her career in a children's library in the late 1950s I was immediately interested in the story. Fortunately the library service where I worked provided a very different service compared to the challenges faced by Sylvia, however I related to her desire to provide a friendly, welcoming space for children where they could choose the books they wanted to read. Unfortunately Sylvia's manager and some members of the library committee do not agree with her plans.
The book also provides a study of relationships and often prejudices in a small English community. Of course romance is a central theme for part of the novel but this is just part of the study of the relationships in this novel.
Throughout the novel the importance of the enjoyment of reading from a young age as well as the necessity of having libraries for all to enjoy is a major theme. This includes references to titles of children's books that I read and recommended to children all those years ago and hope that my grandchildren may also enjoy reading. A list of books mentioned is provided at the back of the book.
Part 2 of the book is short and is set in present times where the author provides an update on some of the characters we met in part one of the book. She also makes reference to the move in some areas of England to close libraries or, in some cases, staff libraries with volunteers instead of librarians.
Throughout the book the author has captured aspects of life in England during the 1950s. This is the second book that I have read by Sally Vickers and I will look for other books by her to read.
The local library helped me to become a novelist - letter to The Guardian by Sally Vickers (2 February 2017)
Why libraries matter - Irish Times (2 May 2018)
Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close - BBC News (29 March 2016)