Willoughby City Library

With many of us eagerly returning to our local library to stroll amongst those familiar shelves and cosy up in our favourite reading nook, Sydney Writers' Festival speaks to the people behind the books about their favourite reads, most treasured memories in a library and what they most looked forward to after lockdown.

This edition, we speak to Cecilia Wong, Community Connection and Learning Supervisor with Willoughby City Council

What do you love most about your library or libraries in general?  

Libraries are a great place to connect with all walks of life, to listen to a community's stories and be inspired by how libraries can bring a sense of belonging.  

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

An inclusive, welcoming place for everyone to discover resources, learn new skills, pursue their interests and meet new people.

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

How can I join the library? Can you help me to find a book? What activities are there for my child? What programs do you offer for seniors? Can you help to trouble shoot my mobile device? Is there a quiet room I can use?

Favourite moment or memory in a library

When I returned to work after my leave at a small branch library, a 9-year-old child ran into me and gave me a big hug, his grandmother said he missed me. Patrons thought he was my son. An unexpected and unforgettable moment.

What is your favourite book from the last year? 

I asked my library colleague, and they suggested Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. It's for those who are interested in the natural world, but without a scientific vocabulary.

Wohlleben likens his beloved woods to human families and communities, communicating, supporting, sharing nutrients, and even warning each other of impending dangers.

“When I returned to work after my leave at a small branch library, a 9-year-old child ran into me and gave me a big hug, his grandmother said he missed me.”

What book has made the greatest impact on you? 

Also from a colleague, Stephanie Dowrick's Intimacy and Solitude, read in 1991. It is a wise guide towards the beautiful benefits of solitude and as well as trust and openness in essential personal relationships. She has written a newly revised and expanded edition of Intimacy and Solitude, in response to the difficult events of the COVID years.

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

Our children’s librarians recommend Karen Foxlee’s Lenny’s Book of Everything – a story of everyday life, of children and their mother, of their friends and neighbours. A book for anyone aged over 10.

They also recommend Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, a crossover novel that appeals to a dual audience of teens and adults. This novel deals with issues that are relevant to contemporary readers.

What is the most surprising thing about your job?

No day is the same, and we wear many hats from librarian to presenter, tech trouble-shooter, event organiser to community engagement builder.

What did you most look forward to enjoying once out of lockdown? 

To be able to interact face to face, to adapt to the ‘new normal’, and to reconnect to the real world and embrace changes.