From the archive of the Archivist: Phyllis Mander-Jones’ ‘Librarian’s Lunacy’ script.

Title: Librarian’s Lunacy.

Creation date: 1932

Creator: Phyllis Mander-Jones, Public Library, New South Wales (NSW), staff member.

Where it was created: North Gordon, Sydney.

Format: Manuscript.

Language: Australian-English.

Materials: 2mm thick cardboard dyed dark green shaped to form an A5 binder; metal binder clips; loose-leaf lined binder paper; black ink.

Collections: Phyllis Mander-Jones aggregated collection of records, 1920-1984.

Collection location: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Availability: On-site, access is granted with an SLNSW Special Collections Library card.

Why it matters: In the scope of the project, ‘The Archive of the Archivist: Phyllis Mander-Jones and Australian-Pacific History, 1901-1957’, this is the only example of a theatrical text written by Mander-Jones in this archive collection. As Michelle Arrow states in her article ‘Career Playwrights: Working Women Dramatists, 1928-1968′ (1998, 90-97), such dramatic works are often interrogated to reveal the social and cultural circumstances in which they were created. This stage play demonstrates Mander-Jones’ versatility as an author and her interest in various writing genres. In a period when men held the dominant administrative roles within the NSW Public Library, Mander-Jones frames the real-world action of changing SLNSW policy and procedure to preference patron demands in a dramatic perspective to give women a voice in matters of policy and procedure during the early 1930s. This record also indicates class and gender trends of the period, in association with the cultural trend of crosswords and newspaper reading.

These slides from 1902 reveal how integral the newspaper reading room was to library visitors during the early 20th century.

Complimentary collections: National Library of Australia Theatre collection, The AustLit Australian Drama Archive.


[start, page one]

Library Lunacies or the Library Assistant’s dream[1]

A Play in One Act




The Librarian

Miss Black
“       Doulton-Smith

“       Merriweather  (D-S and M are Lib. Assistants)

Shabby Man

Awkward Youth

Pale Man

Elderly Gentleman

Stout Woman

Dirty Child

Newspaper Reporter

Fashionable Lady

Vague Individual

Deaf Gentleman        

Scene. Reading Room of Sydney Public Library.

Time. The present.

There are several long tables, with chairs on either side, down the centre of the room. An enquiry desk, with telephone, inkwell, books etc. in front left. [end page one].

[start of page two.]

The Public entrance in back centre and there is another door right There are shelves of books between the enquiry desk and the entrance. It is after 10 p.m and the Library is closed for the night. A young library assistant, Miss Black, is wearily putting away books and tudying up. She crosses to enquiry desk, drops into a chair, pulls an official document Towards [sic] her and begins to read sleepily.

Miss Black. Memo from Principal Librarian to Library staff, (she yawns) You must endeavour to realise the [indistinct] importance of courtesy and the manifestation of an intelligent interest in your contract with the Public. You must cultivate a pleasant courteous and enthusiastic manner (She yawns again turns over a page [indistinct], murmurs “a pleasant,

[start of page three] courteous and enthusiastic manner” and finally falls asleep, with her head on the desk.).

The curtain falls, then rises again to disclose the Library Assistant’s Dream. 

[drawn line]

The scene is the same. The time is one minute before 10 a.m. Three enthusiastic young library assistants are standing in front of the Desk preparing smiles on their faces to welcome the Public. The Librarian is walking up and down, rubbing his hands together.

Lib. A little more warmth in that smile, Miss Doulton-Smith. You must endeavour, as the Principal Librarian points out, to realise the importance of courtesy and the manifestation of an intelligent interest in your contact with the Public. You must cultivate a pleasant courteous and enthusiastic manner. You must (while he is speaking a clock [end page three]

[start page four]

Can be heard striking 10 o’clock. The entrance of the Public cuts short his eloquence. He sits down at Desk. Several people take books from shelves and seat themselves at table[s] at back of [the] room.

A shabby man approaches the Desk.

S.M Last copy of the ‘Orstralian Poultry Journal please”?

Miss D.S. (a blonde, gushingly) Certainly, delighted! A most interesting journal isn’t it? (She goes off right- Awkward youth comes forward.)

A.Y Er-er-er. I’m in a debate!

Miss Black, (A very young person) How marvellous! (with bated breath) and what is the subject?

A.Y. Should cows be milked on Sunday.

Miss B. What a thrilling topic! I’ll find you something about it. (She rushes out as Miss S. Smith returns with Poultry Journal.)

Miss D.S Now remember, if you should happen to want this again, we’ll be only too delighted to get it for you.

(Enter pale persistent man, who waylays Miss Merrieweather)

Pale Man. (gently) I should like to see the Victorian Post Office Directory for the years 1850 to 1900 inclusive, also 1904, 1905 and 1906.

Miss M. (with ginger curls) So good of you to come in this damp morning. Can’t I get you something else while you are here?

Pale Man. You might get me Sand’s Directory for the same dates.

Miss M. Certainly, with pleasure! (She goes out. P.M. sits at second table. Entre elderly gentleman).

E.G. I wish to see Chambers’ 20th cent. Dictionary. I am looking for the name of a Brazilian fish in six letters beginning with X (Librarian hands dict. to him.) [end of page four]

[start of page five]

I thank you. (He sits at first table facing front. Enter stout woman, with shopping basket and numerous parcels, dragging dirty child by the hand!)

St.W. Where’s the dictionaries?

Lin. Over there madam. Do you want any particular one?

St. W. (volubly) Well its [sic] like this. Me usband [sic] died last year. Awful sudden it was. He [?] caught a chill out prawnin!

Lib. (with deepest sympathy) poom [last word struck through] Poor man!

St. W. Well it was just after that, Mrs Arris, a neighbour, o’ mine, says to me “hors’ Iggs’ she says “I seen quite a few o’ them crossword puzzles in the newspapers and such like. You out to work some o’ them out”. She says “Might bring you in a coupla bob” she says. “That’s right” I says “ a little extra [end page five]

[start page six] money would come in pretty useful, what with six kids to feed, an’ all. ‘Owever, being a bit upset [unsure] at the time, as you might say, I didn’t do nothing about it. (She pauses for breath)

Lin. (who has been vainly trying to get a word in). I’ll get you a dictionary.

St. W. (continuing her talk) Well it was only the other day, I seen our Bella scribblin’ in a newspaper. “What you doin’?” I says- “Crossword puzzle” says Bella. Then I think to meself. If that kid can do it, so can ‘er mother.

Lib. Of course. I’ll-

St. W. I done most of it. Though it was ‘arder than wot I thought (She fishes in her handbag, removes parcels finally produces her puzzle.) There’s a couple of words I ‘aven’t got and it says ‘ere as ‘ow I’ll be sure to find them in Chambers’ [end page six]

[start page seven] 20th century Dictionary.

Lib. I’m sorry, Chamber’s Dictionary is in use at present.

St. W. Well that’s too bad. Ye all-

Lib. (quickly) The gentleman at the first table is using it. Perhaps if you sat down and waitied for a little while (He turns to newspaper reporter, who has come in) Can I get you something?

(St.W. seats herself at first table, right of elderly gentleman and stares across at him.)

News Rept. (presenting numerous slips of paper) I want all these books please.

Lib. They are all together in the next room on the left hand side.

N.R. (pompously) I’m a newspaper man. I’m accustomed to attention. Can’t someone get them for me? [end page seven]

[start page eight]

Lib. Very well. Get these books please Miss Doulton-Smith.

N.R. I have never been able to find a book I wanted in this Library yet. Now the Melbourne Public Library-

(Enter fashionable lady)

Fash. lady. I wish to peruse Chamber’s 20th Century Dictionary.

Lib. I’m sorry, it’s in use.

Fash. L. Have you only one copy? Surely this Library is inadequately supplied with dictionaries?

Lib. We have several dictionaries but only one copy of Chambers’.

F.L. How provoking! I particularly wished to consult it. Is that it on the table there?
Lib. Yes madam.

Fash. L. The gentleman may soon have finished with it. I’ll wait. (She sits left of elderly gentleman. Miss Black returns, hands books to awkward youth who sits at [end page eight]

[start page nine] 2nd table. Enter Vague individual.

V.I. I had a book here some months ago- a small green book.

Miss B: How cute of you to remember it was green. Do you happen to know the author’s name?

V.I. No I don’t- but it as about this size (indicating size vaguely) and green, a pale green.

Miss B, Perhaps you could tell me what it was about?

V.I. I think it dealt with Henry VIII or was it George IV? Anyway, it was green.

Miss B. Do you know where the assistant’s got it from?

V.I. I think it was over there (pointing to bookshelves near the Desk)

Miss B I’ll try to find it for you. (She goes to shelves followed by V.I. who murmurs “It was a peculiar shaped book. About this size”. [end page nine]

[start page 10]

Elderly gentleman rises to leave. S. woman and Fash. Lady reads for dictionary simultaneously.)

Fash. L. Pardon me!

S.W. I say! I was ‘ere first.

F.L. I have been waiting for this volume for some time.

S.W. So ‘ave I. Been waitin’ longer than you ‘ave too.

F.L. Nonsense woman.

S.W. Nonsense woman indeed! Ain’t good enough for you I suppose. Because you’re dressed up like a sore finger ye think ye can treat a decent woman like dirt do you- nonsense woman yer say. Let me tell you me lady-

F.L. How dare you speak to me like that.

(They are both pulling at the dict. whcih threatens to come apart Librarian rescues it.)

Lit. Excuse me ladies. You’re running this book. [end page 10]

[start page 11]

F.L. This woman has insulted me. She should be put out.

S.W. Well! Hike (?) that!

Lib. I’m afraid this lady was here first (indicating to S.W.) It will be her turn first.

F.L. This is disgraceful. I’ll report you. I’ll write to the papers about this. (She sails out. Telephone rings).

Lit. Public Library. Hullo. Yes. Sun Newspaper. Yes. You want a picture of New fiddling while Rome burned, for your Sunday edition. I’ll see what I can do. Send a boy up in half an hour.

(Enter deaf gentleman)

D.G. (in a loud voice) I want the Sydney Morning Herald for last week.

Lib. We don’t take newspapers now. We have our [? indistinct] room for them.

D.G. In the next room?
Lib. No. The Municipal Library Newspaper. Reading Room. Corner of George and Market Streets, 3rd floor.

D.G. Next door? I always used to get [end page 11]

[start page 12]

them here. (Librarian writes on a slip of paper and presents it in silence)

D.G. Can’t see. Haven’t got my glasses. I want the newspapers. The Sydney Morning Herald for the 8th August’.

Lib. Would you speak more quietly please?

D.G. Can’t hear you. I’m deaf.

(Telephone rings)

Lib. Public Library. Yes. Open till ten every day except Sunday.  

D.G. I should also like to see the Daily Telegraph for last week.

(Stout woman’s child begins to howl [the word wail has been crossed out])

S.W Shut up, can’t yer. Do that again and I’ll skin yer.

(Telephone rings again. Various individuals present slops of paper. Deaf man shouts. Child howls. The Librarian runs amok. Shouts into tele[hone. “No the library is closed every day except Christmas Day and Good Friday” Shouts at deaf man “We haven’t got any damned newspapers”. [end page 12]

[start page 13]

Hurls various objects at nearby readers and sprints out the front door. At the bookshelves Miss Black stops smiling. Hits the vague man on the head with a green book, so that his hat collapses over his eyes, then begins hurling books at the readers. Miss Merryweather, who has just staggered in with a final pile of directories, drops them on the Pale Man, who falls to the floor senseless.

Miss Doulton Smith somes in with several large books which she drops on Newspaper Reporter’s toes, then begins throwing inkwells and books.

The Readers jump up and rush out dodging books and inkwells as they go. As the last one staggers out, the girls do a final war dance and disappear.
All is silent and deserted, same for the Shabby man, who creeps [end page 13]

[start page 14]

From beneath a nearby table with ink streaming from his hair, and cautiously withdraws.

The curtain falls and rises again to disclose Miss Black, asleep at the Desk. She wakes as Miss Doulton Smith comes in right, dressed for the street.

Miss D.S. Good gracious aren’t you going home to-night? It’s half past ten!

Miss B. (rubbing her eyes and laughing) I’m afraid I’ve been asleep. I’ve had such a funny dream.

(She begins to tell Miss D.S about it as they go out arm in arm)


[end page 14]

[1] ‘Or the Librarian Assistant’s Dream’ appears in lighter ink, indicating it was an edit to the original title