Author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons has called for Terry Deary (pictured) to debate the issue of library closures in public, following his comments that “Libraries have had their day”.
The Horrible Histories writer, who was the seventh most borrowed children’s author according to 2011-12 PLR figures, spoke out in favour of Sunderland City Council closing a number of branch libraries, insisting that: “A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimental. The book is old technology and we have to move on, so good luck to the council.”
Deary reiterated his views on BBC Look North, before a expressing similar views in interviews with the Guardian and Independent. He told the Guardian: “Books aren't public property, and writers aren't Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. They've got to make a living. Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat. We don't expect to go to a food library to be fed... The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be. What other entertainment do we expect to get for free?”
Gibbons has written an open letter to Deary calling for a debate. He said: “You say that I am not worth debating with. Fine, debate with somebody who is better known than I am, say David Almond, Philip Pullman, Lee Hall, Joan Bakewell, Lee Child or Kate Mosse or any of the other major figures who have spoken out against library cuts. Let’s get this debate out into the public arena without name-calling. Have libraries had their day? Should they all be closed? Has reading gone 100% digital? Should we give out iPads instead of having social spaces in the community? I say no, but let’s discuss it. You may just convince the rest of us we are wrong, though I doubt it.”
More library supporters condemned Deary’s views via social media. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) president Phil Bradley commented: “Seriously.. just how THICK is Terry Deary?”
However former Waterstones boss and library campaigner Tim Coates, commenting on The Bookseller website, said: “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.”