A guy who writes kid’s books is raising a brouhaha, at least in Britain–home of the dying public library, by claiming that libraries are “outdated and harmful to the publishing industry.”
His claims are certainly interesting, which must be true because people have found them of interest. Here are some of his juicy quotes:
This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.
Okay, not the Victorian age. Got it. Can’t argue with you there. How are we different? Because now we don’t want to allow the impoverished access to literature? Excellent point. Wait, compulsory schooling takes care of that? Can the adults keep getting books from their school libraries after they graduate? What kind of crazy system do they have over there!
Books aren’t public property, and writers aren’t Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. They’ve got to make a living. Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat. We don’t expect to go to a food library to be fed.
The only reason books aren’t public property is because we make laws that allow you to keep the copyright for a while. That’s a benefit to you the state doesn’t have to grant. Blyton, by the way, published into the 1960s. So all writers up until now have been middle-class women indulging pleasant hobbies? There haven’t been any writers making their living by writing until you came along? When did writers start making a living from their writing? The Victorian era? The 1960s? The 21st century? Can you please give us specifics?
According to the report in another article, he had a few more interesting claims:
Libraries have had their day. They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go.
“Victorian” is stuck in the brain. I’m glad to know we’re in an electronic age. The UK has only been in the electronic age since 1891, which was, um, a decade before the end of the Victorian era. I’m getting confused. How is this related to libraries?
I know some people like them but fewer and fewer people are using them and these are straightened times. A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimentality.
Are fewer people using libraries? Do you have some statistics on that? I know you write children’s books for a living, but some basic statistics shouldn’t be beyond your ken. Gushes of antisentimentality don’t count as evidence.
The book is old technology and we have to move on, so good luck to the council.
The book is a VERY old technology and still going strong because it’s such a good one. Do we HAVE to move on? Why? Because you say so? Evidence, please?
In a later article, with the puzzling headline “Horrible Histories author Terry Deary defends library remarks,” he goes on without really defending anything:
You wouldn’t believe the abuse I’m getting. Personal, vindictive and spiteful abuse from authors who are descending to playground insults.
The angry remarks hurt his feelings. It’s almost like he called for the abolition of a beloved public institution used by millions that’s been around for a couple of centuries while making provocative, unsubstantiated claims. Why would people get upset about that?
No-one is even reading what I’m saying. I never attacked libraries, I said we need to think about people’s access to literature. I don’t see poor people in libraries, I see middle class people with their arms stuffed like looters.
Like “looters.” Glad we’re not resorting to name-calling. Actually, you said that libraries hurt authors, publishers, and booksellers. That’s pretty much an attack on libraries. Instead of getting your feelings hurt, why not offer some evidence to support your claims?
People are entitled to their views but I wish they would just discuss them with me rather than try to poison me with spiteful remarks.
I don’t know where we get the bizarre idea that people are “entitled to their views.” That doesn’t even make sense. Are people entitled to views that are completely wrong? You think libraries hurt authors, publishers, and booksellers? Prove it. Until you have proof, you’re not entitled to believe anything. And even if you can prove that, which I doubt, you then have to prove there’s not a compelling reason to keep libraries around anyway. Good luck with that.
But one letter I received said “I just read what you said about libraries. Well done, it’s about time a proper debate took place”.
I’m always up for a proper debate. I’ll even make myself a cup of tea first so we can be all English and civilized about it. (That’s the England of Miss Marple, by the way, not the England of football hooligans).
If you want a proper debate, Mr. Deary, then instead of making provocative claims and then “defending” them by “saying many of those questioning” you are “employing “playground insults” and were not properly considering [your] arguments,” why don’t you instead try offering some arguments. Crazy, right!
I haven’t seen one argument offered in these news accounts. Did you provide some actual arguments and evidence that didn’t get reported? Or was it pretty much provocative, unsubstantiated claims like in the news?
Once you provide some arguments and evidence, some people will be happy to debate you. But for a debate, you need to have a better argument than libraries should close because you say so.