Blacktown City Libraries

At a time when we can't meet at the library to stroll amongst the shelves or cosy up in a reading nook, Sydney Writers' Festival speaks to the people behind the books across NSW about their favourite reads, most treasured memories in a library and what surprises come with working in a library. This edition, we speak to Samantha Cadwallen, Coordinator of Customer Services at Blacktown City Libraries.

Max Webber Library; image: fjmt studio

What do you love most about libraries? 

For me it’s the sense of limitless options. Walking into a library is walking into a world of possibilities. Shelves of wonderful choices and so many places and times to visit without leaving a comfortable chair.

What purpose do you feel the library serves in your community? 

So many people don’t have their own study or work space, and we can provide a safe and welcoming place for them. 

As a librarian, what do you get asked about most? 

Day to day, a very common question is about accessing the services of a JP, but in terms of true library questions, being asked for a solid reading recommendation is a pretty common question. That will happen almost any time you engage with a customer about what they are reading.

“Walking into a library is walking into a world of possibilities.”

Whats your favourite memory in a library? 

Having the lights turned off on me at my local library as a child! We were a family of bookworms and often visited the library straight after dinner. I’m sure the librarians didn’t like having to turn the lights off on us, but we were just voracious readers and would get lost in choosing books.

What is your favourite book from the last year?

I’m currently loving Stan Grant’s With the Falling of the Dusk. It’s depressing subject matter, but he writes poetically. I also loved A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson, which is on the Booker longlist this year. If you like Elizabeth Strout or Anne Tyler, you could try Mary Lawson.

What book has made the greatest impact on you? 

Nineteen Eighty-Four. Only Shakespeare and the King James Bible have had a greater impact on our language.

“I’m sure the librarians didn’t like having to turn the lights off on us, but we were just voracious readers and would get lost in choosing books.”

What children’s or YA book do you think adults should borrow?

Cooee Mittigar: A Story on Darug Songlines by Jasmine Seymour and Leanne Mulgo Watson. Using the local Indigenous language and inviting the reader to journey through the land and seasons of Darug Country, this wonderful book will delight while it educates readers.

What is the most surprising thing about your job?

How little reading time we get! Many people think being a librarian is all about reading all day – I can only say, we wish!

Any advice on getting through lockdown? 

It’s different for everyone. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have a misanthropic rant, let those feelings out and move on. Try to find the positives, like more reading time. Maybe you have a big list of 'one day' books such as Don Quixote, The Corrections and the complete Little House on the Prairie – now you have the perfect excuse for self-indulgence.