I wrote this rant as an overblown but passionate response to an article by author Terry Deary that you can read here:
This article was mind-numbing. I haven’t read an article this loaded with phony equivocation outside of an article about gun control.
First of all, Deary claims he is not attacking libraries and then proceeds to do just that. He ignores the fact that a library is not just a place to get books. For some people, it is their only access to the world. What about the internet? For some, the library is the only access to the internet. His claims about educating the public raise some interesting questions: The public does not always have the unlimited funds to spend on his or others books and so they might be more educated with the chance to sample them. He speaks as though the library allows you to get a free book and keep it, which is not the point. The real purpose of a library is access.
He doesn’t get much sympathy when it comes to making a living. He doesn’t seem to have trouble in that area. The backlash he is inviting is going to be like that of the file sharing crowd against Lars Ulrich and his anti-Napster crusade. That isn’t even quite the same. File sharing allows you to download and keep something. The library is more like a video rental store. I wonder if Deary hates those too? How many copies of each book does he believe a library has anyways? Sometimes, there may be three copies of a popular book, but once again, they will be back unless somebody steals them.
To Deary’s other argument about taking food out of his mouth: perhaps authors, like musicians, are underpaid because of their publishers who take the lions share of everything in book or music sales. As I have pointed out before, musicians may blame file-sharing for there woes, but ignore that their record companies are taking almost all the money their works gross leaving acts like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix with less than 1% which was a pretty standard contract in their day.
Furthermore, if you ask a bookseller (I know a few) what is cutting into their sales, they will probably tell you its the internet, not the library. People will order books rather than leave the house. I think that that kind of convenience breeds laziness and the wonderful experience of going to the bookstore, or the library where you can find your book and perhaps a few more that you didn’t know about.
Deary is very much a “let the buyer beware” kind of guy. He resembles the sort who look at bloated government spending and heap blame on the comparatively measly amount that is given to PBS because they don’t like it. At least he gets some residuals from libraries. I never even knew that was part of the system.
Deary is correct about one thing: schools are there to educate rather than that being the libraries job. Now how many of you were bussed to the library and made to get a book and do a book report? The library, in whatever format, is a great tool for schools to use in educating. Libraries are not just about books either which I think people engaging in LIS can agree on. If someone does not have disposable income to waste on books they may or may not like, the library offers you a test drive. Yes, I’m trying to shoot down his bad example of getting a free car. You can test drive a car, why not a book? More often than not, I find I will buy something if I have the chance to peruse it first. People are less likely to buy if the books are all wrapped up in plastic and they are unfamiliar with the author. Most bookstores, like libraries, allow you to hang out and read all day without buying. I suppose Deary would like them all horsewhipped sent on a boat to New South Wales for not demanding that people buy without question.
Deary has shown that he really could care less about the effectiveness of libraries and doesn’t actually know much about them beyond what he does not like. Mr. Gibbons on the other hand, can see that libraries have more value than being houses of free books. Libraries are places that their communities benefit from.