The Librarians: articles

Laughs by the book

ROBYN Butler wants to assure people that her new sitcom The Librarians isn't making fun of people who work in libraries.

"We are not taking the piss out of librarians," Butler says.

"I have the greatest respect for libraries and librarians, and without taking away the amount of the story that's generated by the library, this is a story about Frances and Christine. The story could happen any place.

"It's like when you're at drama school or university, and you had to write a play and you set it at a bus stop or on a train, because that's a way to get that diverse group of people; this is a grown-up version of that.

"The library can get these different people, and I think the soul of the library is a very generous place.

"A library has a very generous spirit and some of the things we are talking about in this show, some of the themes, are about an ungenerous spirit, so that's a nice juxtaposition."

The Librarians, the six-part series that Butler wrote and produced with husband Wayne Hope, is about an uptight librarian and her efforts to run a local branch, which are complicated when an old friend comes looking for a job.

"It's about a very repressed, Catholic, middle-class woman who is very anxious and tries very hard to control her life, which doesn't work," Butler says of her character Frances.

"She works in a modern library, it has a multi-cultural setting, the library is a melting pot and she tries hard to control that and it backfires. But nothing backfires more than when her childhood friend turns up at the library and she's forced to employ her."

While The Librarians was filmed in an old car dealership in Melbourne, with the showroom essentially converted into a working library, Butler and Hope say they were inspired by the real community library in a Melbourne suburb.

"We have two children and we have spent a lot of time at the St Kilda library over the past 10 years," she says.

"St Kilda library was where we got the image of lots of life happening at one time. You see all these different types of life in one place and it's invigorating, and we have tried to recreate that . . . the fact you are in one place and there are five things happening around you."

However, a TV drama gave them ideas about how to shoot their sitcom. "We so love the way The West Wing was shot. You look at how some of those long shots go, when they start in Leo's office and end in Josh's office, and we really tried to recreate that," she says.

"And the business of Book Week is just as important to us as the negotiations in the Middle East were in The West Wing. If you are in the reality it's what's of the greatest importance to you."

As writer and producers of The Librarians, and with Hope also serving as the show's director, the pair could pick and choose who they wanted to work with on the production.

"The ABC has done an incredible job of giving us such creative freedom, they haven't rushed us and they let us cast the people we wanted," Butler says.

"Bob Franklin and Roz Hammond, The Librarians was actually written for them.

"Being the producer and the writer in this circumstance is great because you know what the vision is, you know where you can cut corners and where you can't."

By Sarah Nicholson
October 30, 2007
The Courier-Mail