No libraries? Let them buy books!

Libraries ‘have had their day’, says Horrible Histories author | Books |

Most writers love libraries. (Neil Gaiman, Phillip Pullman) Most writers love librarians even more. You only have to go to one ALA conference to feel the love swirling all around you. Not Terry Deary, though. It seems he believes the 500,000 UK readers who checked out his books from libraries last year would otherwise have bought them, meaning he believes libraries have taken 180,000 pounds out of his pocket. He claims, “The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?” He believes libraries are responsible for book shops closing down, apparently because everyone who checks out a book from the library is hoarding pockets full of money that they would otherwise be using to buy books. (Perhaps then, librarians should stop stealing from him by buying his books for their collections.)

And, because he has absolutely no idea what is going on in compulsory schooling nowadays, he apparently has the charming idea that compulsory schooling gives the impoverished access to books. (“Oh, they can’t afford to buy books? Let them go to a local school and borrow them.”– my paraphrase) Once you’ve graduated or been shuffled along, no more books for you!

Deary’s interesting take on libraries came to my attention within minutes of my reading this blog post: Final Post. Gail Briggs is also a writer. She also lives in the UK. She has a disability and foresees a time very soon when she will have to rely on a library to fulfill the government’s requirements for her to continue her Job Seekers Allowance (which she wouldn’t need if people weren’t so close-minded about hiring workers with disabilities.) Unfortunately, those libraries will not be there for her, thanks, in part, to the advocacy of people like Terry Deary.

Oh, and lest you think libraries, librarians, and library users are the only objects of Deary’s contempt, I bring you his charming views on historians.

I would not be the reader I am now, nor the book buyer and hoarder I am now, without libraries. I belonged to any library that was foolish enough to give me a card and let me check out books. I’m currently pondering getting a card to a library 70 miles away from my home because I’ve almost used up the small and terribly underfunded library in my town. I’m not saying this to be sentimental about libraries, though I will not deny that I am sentimental about libraries. I’m saying this because access to books and time to read CREATES readers. People who are readers buy books. People who are not readers don’t buy books. But people who are readers cannot buy every book they want to read (I know, I’ve tried.)

I’m being very careful with my budget right now, which means not buying myself every book I want. It means relying on the library. I’m also looking for a job as a librarian. This means I’m facing the damage of attitudes like Deary’s from the perspective of both a voracious reader and of a librarian. I’m seeing the limited hours, libraries closed more than two days a week, a lack of jobs for trained librarians; at exactly the same time we have a great need for the services provided by libraries. Job seekers like Gail Briggs are losing their home internet (which many people still insist on seeing as a luxury) at the same time that the government is going entirely online and libraries are closing early and charging for internet access. I’m fortunate that my husband is working in defense (we can always find money for war) but I’m not going to ignore the challenges that so many others face. Challenges that can be ameliorated by access to a properly funded and staffed library.