How Love-Gone-Wrong Burnt Down the Hobart Library to Help Literacy
by Stephanie Williams
What do you get when you combine a Hobart librarian, an illegal sex videogame and literacy project? Ruairi Murphy explains his new book, which does more than tell a cool story, it helps those struggling with literacy.
Tell me a little about your new book Two sets of books? It’s about the two versions of ourselves – the one we curate and present to the world, and the true self that we hide from others. This idea plays out through the lives of fictional staff at Hobart Library. There’s a book shelver who burns down the library out of love; a technical support officer who recreates a woman in an illegal sex videogame; a security guard who deciphers book titles to prevent an armed robbery – all good, wholesome fun. Readers can expect vivid stories that challenge stereotypes about the placid nature of libraries.
You’re launching the book in partnership with Libraries Tasmania to highlight and improve Tasmania’s literacy rate. How is that happening? Partnering with Libraries Tasmania was a natural fit for this project – these stories are really a love letter to Hobart Library. Literacy is at the heart of every success I’ve enjoyed in life and a great source of pleasure for me, so it’s an honour to support efforts that seek to improve it in other people’s lives. Libraries Tasmania Literacy Service and 26TEN are committed to raising literacy levels in our community. An important part of this work is purchasing books and eResources suitable for people with lower levels of literacy. These resources allow them to read regularly – a practice crucial to improving literacy – so the sale of my book will be donated to purchasing these kinds of resources for Libraries Tasmania.
How did your work as a librarian at the Hobart Library inform the book? I worked for the State Library for several years during the 2000s. They were patient with my lack of direction and gave me opportunities in many different roles – lending librarian, reference librarian, children’s librarian. I got a good feel for the nature of the clientele and the concrete details of the place. The characters and plots in my book are grounded in these details, but they’re all fantastic distortions.
Your manuscript was shortlisted for the Tasmanian Premier’s literary awards and a finalist in the 2018 Carmel Bird digital literary award. What does that mean for an author? I didn’t realise it at the time, but it meant a lot. Neither shortlist led to any payment or publication, but they fattened a very slim writing CV, which then led to opportunities like meeting other writers and tutoring in creative writing at the University of Tasmania. It also made me think that the collection had potential and that I could craft it to a publishable standard.
Is this your first book or do you have others? This is my first book that will see daylight. The others that went before it gave their lives so this one could be respectable.
Can readers attend the launch? Where can they get their hands on a copy? Absolutely. The launch will be held in the Hobart Reading Room on September 8 at 5.30pm. Liz Jack, executive director of Libraries Tasmania, will launch the book. Everyone’s welcome to attend – it’s a beautiful space. People can register at www.two-sets-of-books-launch.eventbrite.com.au. The book will be available in local bookstores. And of course there’ll be copies for loan in the library soon.