Monday, March 4, 2013

Even Libraries are Controversial?!

In elementary school, my teachers passed out book orders every month - basically a small catalog (4-8 pages) of books published by a certain company. (I checked - they still exist.) These were some of best things ever for a bookworm like me. I would peruse the catalog when it was handed out, on the bus ride home, after I finished my homework . . just pour over those few pages until I could narrow it down to one or two to ask my parents to buy for me (which they sometimes did, and sometimes didn't - but the catalog was a thrill either way).

One of the book series that frequented my book order wish lists was Horrible Histories, written by Terry Deary. 
a sampling of the Horrible Histories books that I own
These books rocked, plain and simple. They taught me so much about ancient societies (and I'm nosy, so I ate that up!) in a super fun format - comic strips, trivia challenges, and in-depth descriptions of gross stuff.

So imagine my surprise when I was browsing the internet last week and heard about an author saying libraries "no longer relevant." Of course I had to read the article and then some reactions. And that author? None other than Terry Deary.


This is like when I found out Santa Claus was my parents. I couldn't believe that an author (of all people!) would oppose libraries! And especially not one whose work I enjoyed so much. I don't want to steal the article's thunder, but Terry's basic premise is that libraries were all well and good 150 years ago when they were meant to provide access to literature for the poor, but now that's the job of public schools. He thinks authors and publishers aren't making enough money, partially because of libraries. 

Meanwhile, I think his remarks make him sound greedy. ;) I think he's got it pretty good considering authors are paid when their books are checked out of libraries in the UK (I imagine we don't want to hear his thoughts on libraries elsewhere that don't pay authors!). 

His point about public schools providing poor students with access to books makes some sense (except in the summer), but most public schools can't compete with the range of books and other materials found at a public library. And what happens when those kids grow up? They suddenly have enough money to buy all the books they want? I guess poor adults don't deserve access to books?

Regardless, I have to disagree with him - I love, love, love my library. The library helps me in my quest to buy less stuff and enjoy life as much as possible. I can check out books, magazines, DVDs, etc without going in to debt or feeling guilty when I don't like something and stop midway through. If libraries disappeared tomorrow and I were forced to buy every book I wanted to read, I would read far less (unfortunately, I don't have enough moolah or space to own all the books I want) - no good for my brain or authors who want me to buy their books. 

Not to mention the other "stuff" a library provides besides books . . like a sense of community, craft night, and a quiet, air-conditioned space to read at 4pm on those 95-degree days in July. :)

What do you think? Are public libraries worth it?

I know there's at least one other library fan out there:


  1. Yikes! That is totally disheartening, though I suppose in this culture of "every man for himself" it's not that surprising. I had no idea that authors got paid when people checked out materials from the library... I figured they just made money when the library bought the book.

    I dunno, this whole argument just makes me tired. It's like there's this ridiculous idea floating around that anything non-capitalistic is evil and should be stamped out. Just makes me sad... it's like society has totally lost the concept of "we."

    1. Terry's in the UK, so he gets paid every time his books are checked out there, but I don't think any libraries in the US pay authors. That's part of why he sounds so greedy to me - he's already got it better than he would in the US!


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