The library – essential or sentiment?
I’m sure we’ve all read the UK based Guardian article where author Terry Deary states his feelings about the library system. Let me put a couple pieces of it up here to jog your memory:
“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant,” Deary told the Guardian, pointing out that the original Public Libraries Act, which gave rise to the first free public libraries in the UK, was passed in 1850. “Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that,” said Deary.
Bookshops are closing down, he said, “because someone is giving away the product they are trying to sell. What other industry creates a product and allows someone else to give it away, endlessly? The car industry would collapse if we went to car libraries for free use of Porsches … Librarians are lovely people and libraries are lovely places, but they are damaging the book industry. They are putting bookshops out of business, and I’m afraid we have to look at what place they have in the 21st century.”
First of all, I have problems taking someone whose name rhythms seriously. Sorry. Secondly, I think Deary is wrong. I’m not the only one. Many of his fellow authors have done the reverse and banded together to support their libraries and denounce Deary’s statements. There is one great misconception with Deary’s assessment and that is he is assuming that people have the money to buy books with. Books, and other forms of entertainment, are a luxury item. They are a luxury item because they do not fall under the categories of shelter and food that a person needs for basic survival. Bookshops are struggling because people no longer have the disposable income in which to buy books with.
A decade ago my town had both Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores as well as a couple smaller bookshops. Back before the bubble burst and the world’s economy was still rolling along, all those bookstores had customers with the extra money to buy books with. Now, only Barnes & Noble remains and they had cut their operating hours to offset the lower gains they are getting. People just can’t afford to buy books. The library system may have been created to provide literature to the impoverished but it is still a system that functions today. Maybe Mr. Deary needs to reevaluate what impoverished means in this day and age. When you’re staring at your bank account and wondering if you’ll have enough to cover gas to and from work and feed yourself at the same time then you can count yourself as poor. It’s a problem people who have had their hours cuts, are working minimum wage jobs, or that have simply lost their job are facing every day.
Without the library then many people wouldn’t be reading at all. Deary wouldn’t be getting any more money if the libraries shut down. The people using the library are probably unable to buy his books in the first place and taking away that resource would have little effect on the bookstores. Then he wouldn’t even be getting anything from the Public Lending Right fund that he’s so complaining about. We’re lucky to have access to books and the idea of closing libraries is depressing. Perhaps we should be seeing access to free books as a right instead of a drain on tax payers. I can’t imagine what would happen if libraries were forced to close. It’s frightening to think of, personally. The last thing we need is to take away a source of information from the public. Next thing you know we’ll be dragging our knuckles through the dirt again.