LitFest in Lockdown:           We talk to Lisa Di Tommaso

LitFest in Lockdown: We talk to Lisa Di Tommaso

In the second of our interviews with local literary figures, Rachel Viney talks to the Morrab Library’s Lisa Di Tommaso about working from home, helpful reads for tough times and the importance of custard creams.

What is the biggest ‘plus’ of the lockdown for you as a librarian?

I’m fortunate enough to be able to work from home – I have a long list of policies and papers to write, and I can get these done a bit quicker without the welcome distraction of stopping for a chat and a cuppa with the library’s lovely members! So I’m being very productive.

And what is the biggest ‘minus’?

I really, really miss the library members, and all the hugs!

Which books have you found most helpful in tough times?

I’m a big fan of stories of triumph over adversity. One of my favourite books is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Not only is it a beautiful story set during WW2, it is so evocative with its imagery that it really carries you away to another place. Re-reading Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World reminds me that while things might feel tough right now, at least I’m not in the frozen depths of Antarctica in the dark without a tent trying to collect an Emperor Penguin’s egg!

The Morrab Library, established in 1818, is the only surviving independent library in Cornwall.

Is there a book or author you re-read regularly and, if so, what is it that keeps you coming back?

I do love Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (and am looking forward to reading the final part of the trilogy over Easter). I love the language of it, the way she tells Cromwell’s story. It takes me all over the place emotionally.

Do you have a top tip for staying sane?

Routine! I find having a plan for the day and trying to stick to it helps. I won’t be learning a new language, or writing a novel, but making sure I balance work and down time is important to me. And keeping in touch with family and friends in all sorts of ways. Oh, and not staying in my pyjamas all day.

Which item of food or drink would you most hate to run out of?

Custard Creams! I’m a bit of a sucker for them when I’m working from home.

Have you learned anything new or unexpected about yourself from this experience?

Its only been a couple of weeks; I suspect as things drag on there might be all sorts of self-discovery. I have noticed my capacity for being easily distracted has increased somewhat from when I was younger!

What good things do you hope will come out of this pandemic?

I hope we remember the important things we’ve become so aware of – the kindness of people, and the many ways that manifests itself. Keeping in touch with our family and friends more too – I’ve been in contact with friends I haven’t spoken to in ages. We just have to try and remember what’s important and hold on tightly to that.

Have you discovered any great new online resources to help while away the time?

The National Theatre’s Thursday night streaming of their plays is brilliant. And if I may … if anyone reading this is looking for inspiration or something to while away the time, the Morrab Library’s Photo Archive website has thousands of historic images from Penwith and beyond, which have been digitised. It’s possible to browse, or search for specific areas, events or people.


Lisa Di Tommaso is the Librarian at Morrab Library in Penzance. Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Lisa moved to London in 2002, firstly working for the National Trust, before becoming a Special Collections Librarian at the Natural History Museum. Prior to moving to Penzance in 2018, she was the Head of Collections at Durham Cathedral, managing the library, object collections and its new Open Treasure museum.

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