Saturday, 11 May 2013

"Libraries have had their day"

I stumbled on an article today on The Guardian website, it was published in February, but I disagree so strongly I felt compelled to write a post. You can read the article here, but the basic gist is that Terry Deary, author of the Horrible History series, argues that libraries are a drain on council budgets and are detrimental to the book industry. Deary is quoted as saying;
 "We can't give everything away under the public purse. Books are part of the entertainment industry. Literature has been something elite, but it is not any more. This is not the Roman empire, where we give away free bread and circuses to the masses. People expect to pay for entertainment."    
To be honest he comes across in the article as very money grabbing, his main issue with libraries seems to be that he isn't given enough royalties when people check out his books from a library, authors are given 6.2p every time one of their books is borrowed. I agree that authors should receive a decent percentage of royalties for their intellectual property, and Deary does still receive financial compensation for library loans, so I don't understand his complaint. Besides it's not like he's some starving author holed up in garret, struggling to write as his body shakes from consumption, unable to eat due to the wicked Public Lending Right Scheme limiting his earnings, he has sold over 25 million books in over 40 languages.

I believe passionately that literature should be accessible to everyone and libraries are vital in achieving this. When I was growing up my family was on a low income, buying books was rare treat even though we were all keen readers. My mum, two sisters and me are all massive Harry Potter fans, we had one copy of the book that we shared between the four of us using a  timer to make sure everyone got a fair go. Having more than one copy per household seemed like a huge luxury, that was not available to us.

Being near to a well equipped library means I have never been deprived of literature and I'm really grateful for this. Through library loans I've educated and entertained myself. I remember as a child loading my arms and checking out the maximum 15 books, thrilled that I wasn't restricted by budget. As an English Literature student it would have been impossible to complete my course without access to a library as I couldn't afford to buy all the books, even second hand.

Deary's claim that libraries are "putting bookshops out of business" is ludicrous, both have coexisted for decades. Libraries promote literacy, and are therefore are worth investing in.

 They also provide other services that benefit the local communities, many offer computer courses or English and Mathematics qualifications. Libraries also provide a quiet, distraction free place to study, which is really important to students who might not have this at home.

Terry Deary you are wrong and I'm really sad about that because I was a big Horrible History fan. Libraries have not had their day, they are a fantastic resource and library closures should be fought. The council tax that funds them is well spent, as libraries contribute to the education and cultural development of communities.

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