MANY of us have used a public library at some time but how many of us are familiar or had a subscription with the exclusive circulating library of Boots Booklovers Library based within many Boots chemist's shops.

Established in 1899 by Florence Boot, wife of Jesse Boot, the founder of the Boots chemist chain, Boots Booklover Library thrived for 67 years and in their heyday had more than 400 branches throughout the UK serving one million subscribers.

There were Boots libraries in Dorset including Bournemouth, Poole, Blandford and Sherborne. Bournemouth had branches in the centre of the town, Boscombe, Winton, Westbourne and Southbourne.

'Lipsticks and Library Books' written by Wimborne author Jackie Winter tells the story of the Boots Booklovers Library drawing from the memories of the library staff, including Pat Oldale who worked at the Boscombe branch, Maureen Harris at the Bournemouth branch on Old Christchurch Road and Joy Forrester-Addie at Winton during the 1950s and 1960s.

Each branch library had two counters, one designated for Class A subscribers, who paid top rates and the other for Class B", said Jackie.

Class A subscribers paid an annual 17s 6d for the privilege of choosing any book on the shelves, regardless of popularity or date of publication. Most of the subscribers fell into Class B which costs 10s 6d and they were restricted to borrowing books which were over a year old. All Boots' books had the distinctive Green Shield embossed on their covers and a tag was inserted in the book when borrowed, a green tag for first class subscribers and a red one for second class.

"New staff weren't allowed anywhere near the elite readers until they had received thorough training on customer service. Affluence bought Class A subscribers respectful and personal service and they were never expected to choose their own books. A member of staff would bring a selection of titles to be perused and many might be discarded, before one was deemed acceptable. No subscriber ever left Boots library dissatisfied or empty handed".

Joy Forrester-Addie was a reluctant Boots recruit. On leaving school in 1958 aged 16, Joy applied for a job in Bournemouth Borough Libraries but was told there were no vacancies. At the time her mother worked for two retired teachers who were avid readers and Class A borrowers and they recommended her for a job at Boots library at Winton.

"They thought I was the right sort of young lady to serve subscribers." said Joy.

Junior assistants were encouraged to think of themselves as a cut above ordinary sales staff and working in Boots libraries was even believed to enhance a girl's chance of making a good marriage.

Occasionally books arrived at the Winton branch a short while before their publication date and had to be kept under wraps for a few days.

"Some readers were desperate to lay their hands on popular titles. I remember a woman sneaking into our little office just to get a peep at "Bond Street Story", the latest book by Norman Collins", said Joy.

There were three full time staff working at Winton and it was always busy. The building was on three floors with the chemist at ground level, the library on the second floor and the staff room at the top.

Pat Oakdale recalls serving the world champion ice skater Courtney Jones at the Boscombe branch, "He lived with his mother and often came in to choose books for her".

Maureen Harris met famous actors while working at her branch of Boots in Bournemouth, where there were several theatres, such as the Winter Gardens and the Pavilion.

"Cary Grant came into the library when he was in Bournemouth visiting his mother", Maureen remembers.

"Stewart Grainger was another regular. He owned a house on the East Cliff". Of course, no respectful Boots library assistant in the 1950s would have dreamed of requesting an autograph.

During the winter months the stars of stage and screen were replaced by wealthy visitors who came to live in the town's most expensive hotels, before returning to the continent when the better weather arrived. Some of these temporary subscribers were very demanding and expected to be treated like royalty.

There were a lot of retired military men of high rank and their wives were used to being treated with great respect. One couple were going to join the English socialite Lady Docker on a yacht in the spring and wanted their books sent weekly to Cannes.

By the mid 1960s books were no longer an expensive luxury thanks to cheap paperbacks and Boots Booklovers Library could no longer compete. The last remaining branches closed in 1966.

'Lipsticks and Library Books' is available from Amazon for £5.99, Dorset Bookshop in Blandford, Gullivers in Wimborne and from Jackie on 01929 459207.