February 15, 2013

British author says libraries are merely “sentimental”


Children’s book author Terry Deary has caused controversy in England after stating that “libraries are on their way out.”

Terry Deary, the bestselling-author of a series for children called Horrible Histories, caused a bit of a flap in in the UK this week when he said that libraries don’t serve a purpose anymore and that their supporters are fighting to preserve library culture for mostly sentimental reasons. 

The Bookseller quotes him as saying:

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. I know some people like them but fewer and fewer people are using them and these are straitened times. A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimentality.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Guardian, Deary reiterated his stance:

“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the idea behind libraries which is no longer relevant,” [Deary said] 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.”

In response, Alan Gibbons, another British children’s author, wrote a blog post entitled “Terry Deary’s horrible library statement,” in which he counters the notion, saying more and more people are visiting libraries, and that the artistic community’s support of libraries is based on facts from the National Literacy Trust and other organizations that study what he calls “the effectiveness of libraries.”

Gibbons also wonders if Deary  is a “good self-publicist” or “an old-fashioned eccentric,” which is a good question considering other statements and stunts this author has pulled. Among them, he once argued that his books should be outlawed in schools saying “I shudder when I hear my books are used in those pits of misery and ignorance”; he has criticized prominent historians saying they are “nearly as seedy and devious as politicians”; and he once told The Guardian the children “should leave school at 11 and go work.”




Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.