News

Deary: "libraries have had their day"

Horrible Histories author Terry Deary has broken ranks with the many authors who have spoken out in support of the public library service, claiming "libraries have had their day" and that much of what is said about them is "sentimentality".

The Sunderland-born author spoke out as Sunderland City Council considered closing local libraries. Deary told the Sunderland Echo: "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." He added: "The book is old technology and we have to move on, so good luck to the council."

Deary has enjoyed giving voice to unconventional views in the past, once telling the Guardian: "Kids should leave school at 11 and go to work."

Sunderland currently maintains 20 static libraries, with some co-located with other services. The council is looking to cut that number to focus on "library hubs" that would "provide an extended offer".

Sunderland council has made savings of around £100m in the past three years, and is looking to save the same amount over the next three years. In 2012-13, the library service has a budget of £4.6m, with a target of saving £850,000 by 2013-14.

In a report due to be discussed by the council¹s cabinet tomorrow (13th February), the council's executive director of health, housing and adult services said: "The library service will become a beacon of excellence in the community for reading, learning and information. Library services will support the development of confident individuals and communities who can realise their full potential and contribute to the broader vision of the
city."

If the report is approved, a consultation into the changes will be launched.

 

Comments: Scroll down for the latest comments and to have your say

By posting on this website you agree to the Bookseller comments policy. Comments go direct to live please be relevant, brief and definitely not abusive. Report any "unsuitable comments by clicking the links"

"Libraries have had their day. They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age."

Did you hear that the near 8 million of you who have never used the internet and those of you that have but don't have access at home? Tough luck if you have to visit the library to use the internet..."libraries have had their day".

All those children who can't do their homework because they haven't got the internet at home and don't have a place to study? Terry Deary wants to make your history homework as difficult as possible...because "libraries have had their day".

And those of you desperate to preserve your service because it is the only way your kids can remain on a level playing field with the middle class kids or because it is the only way you can make use of the internet...you're just being sentimental. If you find yourself left behind because you do not have the means to join the rest of us in the "electronic age", tough luck. You are on your own. Deal with it. You'll just be a footnote when someone comes to write the "horrible history" of the digital era...

1. His view is sentimental towards digital (just as he opposes sentimentality here) - because it's not backed up with anything. Why aren't we asking the hundreds of thousands who use or need libraries.

2. Facts show people want physical more than they want digital - books represent 60%+ of retail sales and 98% of library loans. Most research now suggests digital will grow over decades but is unlikely to ever completely diminish physical.

3. Libraries can and do deliver digital downloads!

The question is how they evolve to best fit the needs of a modern library service. Mr Deary doesn't move that debate forward. He has however scored the PR for himself that he desired.

I have to confess that I am appalled by Terry's comments. I know he likes to be seen as a cutting edge iconoclast and, the last time I met him, an anarchist. Odd that he ends up backing a Labour council cutting libraries!
If libraries have had their day why are they thriving in Finland? If they are old hat why are they building 180 in South Korea, expanding them in Japan, India, China and South Africa? Does Terry not know that children's borrowing is rising in the UK? Does he not know that they support the 30% of the population that is not online?
Libraries are social meeting places. They still get 300 million visits a year. They provide a huge range of activities.
I have got used to defending them from short-sighted councillors. I didn't think I would have to defend them from a fellow author, especially one who considers himself radical.

I've been a poet-in-residence in many libraries and seen how they are a haven from cash demand places like cafes, shops, and the like. During the cold seasons it's just not possible to sit outside in a park.

Working in the magical city of Hull, possibly one of the friendliest places in Britain, many ordinary citizens, from children, to mums, dads, refugees both from other cultures and countries, and from homelife or money mad city centres, have to have a break, read a book without having to fork out dosh.

I've seen libraries literally save lives. I'm also a writer who strongly believes in the right of others to bear books, not arms, to be able to read, or learn to read.

I guess everything is sentimental if it's not getting a buck out of someone. I've been a capitalist, comfortably off, but still respect the need for libraries.

I've witnessed a lot of money wasted on buildings and projects going no where fast, but a library is something unique, maybe quaint, but needed by people, for company, for not being put on the wastetip because they are poor or old, can't make a buck anymore.

When places for books, free of charge, disappear, so do groups of people, they become invisible to everyone.

Alan, With Words

I have striven to find something I could agree with in Terry Deary's statements. I think I can just about endorse the idea that libraries need to change and adapt to a digital age. We all do. And they are. That is NOT the same as shutting them down.

If this is what Terry Deary really thinks, I expect to see an equally public declaration that he will be returning the PLR that will be paid into his account this week.

Libraries are about so much more than paper books but they are still about that too and borrowing of children's books from libraries now represents 37% of loans.

Terry Deary is talking through his .. well, let's keep it clean and say "hat."

I have striven to find something I could agree with in Terry Deary's statements. I think I can just about endorse the idea that libraries need to change and adapt to a digital age. We all do. And they are. That is NOT the same as shutting them down.

If this is what Terry Deary really thinks, I expect to see an equally public declaration that he will be returning the PLR that will be paid into his account this week.

Libraries are about so much more than paper books but they are still about that too and borrowing of children's books from libraries now represents 37% of loans.

Terry Deary is talking through his .. well, let's keep it clean and say "hat."

'I know nothing about history myself – researchers dig up all the facts', he says on his website. I wonder where those researchers go to find him his facts.

I cannot understand Terry Deary's point of view. I drive a mobile library that visits primary schools and children love his books and borrow them in vast numbers. What is 'sentimental' about valuing a service that is free, open to everyone and does more than anybody else to engender a love of books in children. Anybody else with the possible exception of teachers and school librarians, that is. Oh, I forgot, Terry hates schools as well doesn't he? What a curmudgeon!

I just saw the piece in the Echo too. I went straight to his site and saw the news: "Terry Deary is the 12th most borrowed author last year and the 7th most borrowed children's author" so I think he should consider removing himself from the PLR and whatever earnings he has received he should be give to a literacy charity.

http://www.terry-deary.com/latest/109

How can he even say something so silly when the children's lending rates are on the increase?

Libraries have had their day? The book is old technology??
I don't think so. Bit like saying paper and pens are dead or, as I read somewhere today, lifts replace stairs!!

Libraries are even more important in the current economic climate. I wonder when was the last time Mr Deary actually visited a library. Most of my local ones in an inner city borough are packed out with students, parents, older people, teenagers etc - all those without the economic power to afford the luxury of buying books, accessing the Internet etc at home.

What an insult from a man whose living has been supported by those of us who have committed our library budgets to buyiing his books. Most young people would not have had access to his books without libraries.

Big mistake Mr Deary and I reckon you are regretting your statement already.

At the risk of upsetting every friend I have who campaigns for libraries and every publisher who reads these columns, I think that within the rhetoric that Terry Deary has used, which is mischievous (but he is a writer - and that's what they do, the good ones)there is serious point echoed elsewhere.

As I understand it one of the matters to which he has drawn attention is the amount of reading for which the author and publisher is paid next to nothing. And that is exactly the same point that the big six publishers are making when they refuse to supply public libraries with ebooks.

The model that was used for a hundred years of a library buying a copy of a book and then lending it freely may be wonderful for libraries and society, but it is unfair to authors

Don't let us pretend that PLR is a substitute for proper payment - it is a token, a good and sensible token, but it is a token/

If as a society we believed it were right to give our children free bread and free milk, we would pay the baker and the farmer- we wouldn't expect them to subsidise the offers. We don't expect our doctors to be paid nothing when we offer a free health service.

Actually the library service has been unfair to authors and publishers for a long time - and if Terry Deary is saying that among his views, it is a fair point.

Librarians demand, quite rightly, that it is wrong to replace them with volunteers and that they should be paid properly for what they do. They shouldn't be so surprised when authors say the same thing - even if an author's language is slightly more arresting.

Completely disagree with you, Tim. Authors, publishers and bookshops managed to survive with proper libraries for a hundred years. Even in the USA, where there's no PLR. If it's somehow unfair to authors, I don't actually care, because the social benefits of public libraries outweigh any unfairness; and indeed many authors *became* authors because of formative experiences in libraries.

Tough luck if you have to visit the library to use the internet..."libraries have had their day" .. All those children who can't do their homework because they haven't got the internet at home and don't have a place to study?

There's always an alternative - at least in the US. And maybe here in the UK?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732473130457818979416105695...

It would be better if the libraries got there first though..

'Horrible Histories' don't require too much in the way of facts.

It looks like they are pretty much just a franchise. A becoming rather rather dated franchise, I think.

Mr. Deary's history is fairly horrible. The idea that libraries are a Victorian idea in a digital age is historically unsound. The first research library was Aristotle's Lyceum. Several decades later the first "public" library was founded by Demetrius of Phalerum in Alexandria. (In case Mr. Deary is reading, let me assure you both of those libraries were founded well before the Victorian era.) The libraries, in the Western tradition are not just places for access to books--that in itself is a recent idea with the codex only being around in mass production for the last quarter of libraries' lives. Instead, libraries are places that form and share cultural memory. This is why the focus of libraries is decidedly un-Victorian. They are not dusty book warehouses, but community centers where children go for programming and adults can have internet access.

Next time Mr. Deary wants to do some historical research he might benefit from stopping at the library.

"Libraries have had their day. They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age."

Did you hear that the near 8 million of you who have never used the internet and those of you that have but don't have access at home? Tough luck if you have to visit the library to use the internet..."libraries have had their day".

All those children who can't do their homework because they haven't got the internet at home and don't have a place to study? Terry Deary wants to make your history homework as difficult as possible...because "libraries have had their day".

And those of you desperate to preserve your service because it is the only way your kids can remain on a level playing field with the middle class kids or because it is the only way you can make use of the internet...you're just being sentimental. If you find yourself left behind because you do not have the means to join the rest of us in the "electronic age", tough luck. You are on your own. Deal with it. You'll just be a footnote when someone comes to write the "horrible history" of the digital era...

1. His view is sentimental towards digital (just as he opposes sentimentality here) - because it's not backed up with anything. Why aren't we asking the hundreds of thousands who use or need libraries.

2. Facts show people want physical more than they want digital - books represent 60%+ of retail sales and 98% of library loans. Most research now suggests digital will grow over decades but is unlikely to ever completely diminish physical.

3. Libraries can and do deliver digital downloads!

The question is how they evolve to best fit the needs of a modern library service. Mr Deary doesn't move that debate forward. He has however scored the PR for himself that he desired.

I have to confess that I am appalled by Terry's comments. I know he likes to be seen as a cutting edge iconoclast and, the last time I met him, an anarchist. Odd that he ends up backing a Labour council cutting libraries!
If libraries have had their day why are they thriving in Finland? If they are old hat why are they building 180 in South Korea, expanding them in Japan, India, China and South Africa? Does Terry not know that children's borrowing is rising in the UK? Does he not know that they support the 30% of the population that is not online?
Libraries are social meeting places. They still get 300 million visits a year. They provide a huge range of activities.
I have got used to defending them from short-sighted councillors. I didn't think I would have to defend them from a fellow author, especially one who considers himself radical.

I've been a poet-in-residence in many libraries and seen how they are a haven from cash demand places like cafes, shops, and the like. During the cold seasons it's just not possible to sit outside in a park.

Working in the magical city of Hull, possibly one of the friendliest places in Britain, many ordinary citizens, from children, to mums, dads, refugees both from other cultures and countries, and from homelife or money mad city centres, have to have a break, read a book without having to fork out dosh.

I've seen libraries literally save lives. I'm also a writer who strongly believes in the right of others to bear books, not arms, to be able to read, or learn to read.

I guess everything is sentimental if it's not getting a buck out of someone. I've been a capitalist, comfortably off, but still respect the need for libraries.

I've witnessed a lot of money wasted on buildings and projects going no where fast, but a library is something unique, maybe quaint, but needed by people, for company, for not being put on the wastetip because they are poor or old, can't make a buck anymore.

When places for books, free of charge, disappear, so do groups of people, they become invisible to everyone.

Alan, With Words

I have striven to find something I could agree with in Terry Deary's statements. I think I can just about endorse the idea that libraries need to change and adapt to a digital age. We all do. And they are. That is NOT the same as shutting them down.

If this is what Terry Deary really thinks, I expect to see an equally public declaration that he will be returning the PLR that will be paid into his account this week.

Libraries are about so much more than paper books but they are still about that too and borrowing of children's books from libraries now represents 37% of loans.

Terry Deary is talking through his .. well, let's keep it clean and say "hat."

I have striven to find something I could agree with in Terry Deary's statements. I think I can just about endorse the idea that libraries need to change and adapt to a digital age. We all do. And they are. That is NOT the same as shutting them down.

If this is what Terry Deary really thinks, I expect to see an equally public declaration that he will be returning the PLR that will be paid into his account this week.

Libraries are about so much more than paper books but they are still about that too and borrowing of children's books from libraries now represents 37% of loans.

Terry Deary is talking through his .. well, let's keep it clean and say "hat."

'I know nothing about history myself – researchers dig up all the facts', he says on his website. I wonder where those researchers go to find him his facts.

'Horrible Histories' don't require too much in the way of facts.

It looks like they are pretty much just a franchise. A becoming rather rather dated franchise, I think.

I cannot understand Terry Deary's point of view. I drive a mobile library that visits primary schools and children love his books and borrow them in vast numbers. What is 'sentimental' about valuing a service that is free, open to everyone and does more than anybody else to engender a love of books in children. Anybody else with the possible exception of teachers and school librarians, that is. Oh, I forgot, Terry hates schools as well doesn't he? What a curmudgeon!

I just saw the piece in the Echo too. I went straight to his site and saw the news: "Terry Deary is the 12th most borrowed author last year and the 7th most borrowed children's author" so I think he should consider removing himself from the PLR and whatever earnings he has received he should be give to a literacy charity.

http://www.terry-deary.com/latest/109

How can he even say something so silly when the children's lending rates are on the increase?

Libraries have had their day? The book is old technology??
I don't think so. Bit like saying paper and pens are dead or, as I read somewhere today, lifts replace stairs!!

Libraries are even more important in the current economic climate. I wonder when was the last time Mr Deary actually visited a library. Most of my local ones in an inner city borough are packed out with students, parents, older people, teenagers etc - all those without the economic power to afford the luxury of buying books, accessing the Internet etc at home.

What an insult from a man whose living has been supported by those of us who have committed our library budgets to buyiing his books. Most young people would not have had access to his books without libraries.

Big mistake Mr Deary and I reckon you are regretting your statement already.

At the risk of upsetting every friend I have who campaigns for libraries and every publisher who reads these columns, I think that within the rhetoric that Terry Deary has used, which is mischievous (but he is a writer - and that's what they do, the good ones)there is serious point echoed elsewhere.

As I understand it one of the matters to which he has drawn attention is the amount of reading for which the author and publisher is paid next to nothing. And that is exactly the same point that the big six publishers are making when they refuse to supply public libraries with ebooks.

The model that was used for a hundred years of a library buying a copy of a book and then lending it freely may be wonderful for libraries and society, but it is unfair to authors

Don't let us pretend that PLR is a substitute for proper payment - it is a token, a good and sensible token, but it is a token/

If as a society we believed it were right to give our children free bread and free milk, we would pay the baker and the farmer- we wouldn't expect them to subsidise the offers. We don't expect our doctors to be paid nothing when we offer a free health service.

Actually the library service has been unfair to authors and publishers for a long time - and if Terry Deary is saying that among his views, it is a fair point.

Librarians demand, quite rightly, that it is wrong to replace them with volunteers and that they should be paid properly for what they do. They shouldn't be so surprised when authors say the same thing - even if an author's language is slightly more arresting.

Completely disagree with you, Tim. Authors, publishers and bookshops managed to survive with proper libraries for a hundred years. Even in the USA, where there's no PLR. If it's somehow unfair to authors, I don't actually care, because the social benefits of public libraries outweigh any unfairness; and indeed many authors *became* authors because of formative experiences in libraries.

Tough luck if you have to visit the library to use the internet..."libraries have had their day" .. All those children who can't do their homework because they haven't got the internet at home and don't have a place to study?

There's always an alternative - at least in the US. And maybe here in the UK?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732473130457818979416105695...

It would be better if the libraries got there first though..

Mr. Deary's history is fairly horrible. The idea that libraries are a Victorian idea in a digital age is historically unsound. The first research library was Aristotle's Lyceum. Several decades later the first "public" library was founded by Demetrius of Phalerum in Alexandria. (In case Mr. Deary is reading, let me assure you both of those libraries were founded well before the Victorian era.) The libraries, in the Western tradition are not just places for access to books--that in itself is a recent idea with the codex only being around in mass production for the last quarter of libraries' lives. Instead, libraries are places that form and share cultural memory. This is why the focus of libraries is decidedly un-Victorian. They are not dusty book warehouses, but community centers where children go for programming and adults can have internet access.

Next time Mr. Deary wants to do some historical research he might benefit from stopping at the library.