British children’s author Terry Deary, creator of the “Horrible Histories” series, favors closing public libraries. He’s quoted in The Guardian saying they “have been around too long,” “are no longer relevant,” and have “had their day.”
And in case you don’t know, they’re hurtful to the publishing industry! I guess über-capitalist Andrew Carnegie didn’t realize what harm he was doing to business when he emptied out his fortune in the cause of building free libraries. Nor did his fellow rich guys who owned presses and thought he was doing a great thing, buying lots of copies of their books.
Now we know better!
Deary is calling for a public debate around libraries, and for an end to the “sentimentality” he believes has framed the issue so far. “Why are all the authors coming out in support of libraries when libraries are cutting their throats and slashing their purses?” he asked. “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. They might object to TV licences, but they understand they have to do it. But because libraries have been around for so long, people have this idea that books should be freely available to all. I’m afraid those days are past. Libraries cost a vast amount … and the council tax payers are paying a lot of money to subsidise them, when they are used by an ever-diminishing amount of people.”Deary, who ironically is the seventh-most borrowed children’s writer from UK libraries, said libraries are hurting the industry.
Deary’s fallacy is ignoring the difference between ending libraries and ending free public libraries. People may grumble but will accept paying a user fee to get into a national park much more readily than they will locking the gates to the park. But Deary’s full exposition in The Guardian is that libraries are unacceptable competition for booksellers — a more extreme view than held even by robber barons of the steampunk era.
[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]
The library dividend is mighty.
The idea that public libraries encourage children (and adults) to read, thereby increasing the market for books in general, seems to have escaped Mr. Deary.
How odd. He could increase his monetary sums by having signings and selling his own books, instead of grumbling about “free” libraries.
The Wikipedia entry makes him sound like a crank.
In our brave new electronic world, Deary is getting his way. Many publishers of electronic books will not lease their products to libraries, and “lease” rather than “sell” is what those who do it do. They charge inflated prices for libraries, and the licenses, which are issued to library consortia and not to individual public libraries, expire after typically 25 borrowings and have to be renewed for another large fee.