Review of ‘Lipsticks and Library Books: The Story of Boots Booklovers Library’ by Jackie Winter

Boots are a British company known for their pharmacies, beauty products, photo services, opticians and more. Once upon a time, they had libraries too. ‘Boots Booklovers Library’ loaned books to subscribers from 1898 to 1966. This slim volume by Jackie Winter tells the story of this bygone institution. It can easily be read in a day.

I liked how there was a focus on Florence Boot (whose idea it was to have library services) and the kind of books that the library stocked. It was interesting to learn that public libraries at the time didn’t tend to buy enough, if any, of the ‘light fiction’ (romances and family stories) that female customers liked, so there was a gap in the market for Boots, who became important customers of the romance publishers. I also learned that some people would avoid public libraries because they thought the books carried diseases. Boots took this seriously; any of their books returned from suspected infectious households were sent to the library headquarters to be burnt!

One of the nice things about this social history book is the contributions from people who either worked at Boots libraries (young women for the assistant roles and older ‘spinsters’ for the managers – the head librarian was male, of course) or remembered using them. It was quite sad to read contemporary reactions to the announcement that the libraries were closing.

I would have liked some images included in this book, other than those on the front cover. A little more proofreading was needed to sort out the punctuation. Other than that, definitely worth reading.

Independently published in 2016.

Leave a Reply