Lobbying for Libraries

February 20, 2013

Last week social media was all a-twitter after the Guardian ran a story about Terry Deary, a best-selling author in the UK, and his view on libraries. Deary argues that libraries are no longer relevant

“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…”

Deary seems to have never set foot in a library or read a mission statement if he thinks that the “compulsory education” taxes provide meet the full range of community needs that libraries routinely do.

Many of Deary’s complaints about libraries make him seem like the prototypical rich entitled author, but I’m trying really hard not to criticize him (that’s why I’ve tried to wait and let my feelings cool before writing this).

The thing is— libraries and librarians are constantly having to justify our existence to everyone (the communities we serve, the government, even our own boards). Not only is it a matter of funding in an economic climate where every penny counts, the role of libraries in the community (I’m speaking mostly about public libraries here, but private and academic libraries face many of these challenges as well) is changing and librarians are expected to do more with less. Libraries are expected to increase productivity and serve more community members while also working toward innovation and progress. Many libraries are also making a more concerted effort to draw new people into the library through more programs. With the services they provide and the atmosphere they strive to create, many libraries are turning into de facto community centers.

Libraries do so much and we are constantly evolving to meet new needs

It’s heartening to see that the response to this— people all over social media, along with countless prominent authors have stepped up and voiced their support for libraries. It’s good to know that there are still plenty of people fighting for us.

If you want to read the full Guardian article, you can read it here.


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