News

Deary library row continues

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.” 
 


 

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I'm really struggling to understand why he is saying these things? Is it ego, does he love a bit of notoriety? Is it really just about his lost sales because libraries are stealing his books? Does he actually believe libraries are finished? I'm very angry with him. I come from the same part of Sunderland that he does and it even today is a very, very poor and run down place. Most kids don't do well at school from Hendon, I know I didn't. The libraries in Sunderland are where I was educated away from the peer pressure and bullying that you get at school in a rough town if you know the answers to the questions in lessons. He is entitled to his views however much I disagree with him but you would have hoped that an adult with a degree of intelligence would comprehend that his views are not main stream and by publically stating them in the way he has they will resonant. Those who either don't understand the value of libraries or are ideologically opposed to them will be jumping on them because the political world is a simple one that lacks nuance and real open debate, its about spin, sound bites and ill-informed rhetoric. In expressing his views in the way he has done I think he's contributed to taking away the life chances of lots of kids from the poor areas in one of the poorest cities in England. Buy them kindles if you think thats the answer, the e-books are not cheap and the future of e-book lending is far from certain. The kids who really need libraries are being betrayed by our politicians and he should know better.

I think Deary's accountant has quite simply done a few calculations learned in business economics classes and arrived at the conclusion that his client being one of the most heavily read authors in the children's section could do just as well if not better without the libraries lending for free. Authors otherwise can gain from the literacy and literary culture created by the libraries. Mentioning the 1850 library act is a red herring, being brought into recent history with the 1964 libraries act - and indeed the remit of the libraries to provide the full breadth of our literary culture to the public in a way that is efficient for them to make use of is still just as much of value today as in 1964.

(I was reading computer experts in the news yesterday estimating it would take perhaps as long as 20 years for the UK to fully cultivate the computer security skills it needs as a matter of urgency at the moment. Being someone who is working on this issue at the moment myself, I sorely would like to put purchase requests in for needed technical books, but as a library employee I know also that this would be a very selfish thing to do at this point in time. The libraries are holding our culture back by not fulfilling their potential.)

Tim Coates I think could have maybe mentioned that he does not agree with the full closure of libraries (I'm sure myself he doesn't, taking the opportunity to posit a provocation as he tends to do, unfortunately provoking quite a few people more than he perhaps should do). However he is as usual reminding that the core mission of the libraries is authors and readers, and provoking the libraries to contemplate that they often outwardly seem to have forgotten this.

What is Tim Coates exactly asking for - if it's more money now is patently not the time!

Dreary and Coates are of the same mould - self-publicists at the expense of their own industry.

Shame on The Bookseller for allowing them such a high profile voice when what we need is sober and professional analysis to support the trade and push the debate forward.

I emailed him today and got a reply which he said I can stick up on my blog:

http://questioneverythingtheytellyou.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/you-can-be-o...

What I would like to see is exactly the same as I have been saying for fifteen years: more of the library funding should be spent on books

As a country we invest One thousand million pounds each year in a public library service, knowing that the reason for which it is most used is for people to read books

Last year only about thirty million pounds went to publishers. Authors will have received about three million pounds from book purchases. To that Public Lending Right adds a further six million, making nine million pounds for authors in total. I don't think that is nearly enough to do the job that the public want to see libraries do

Between six hundred and seven hundred million pounds was spent last year on staff and management in public libraries. I know from close scrutiny of many oouncils that there are substantial opportunities to make savings out of that amount without affecting the service to the public at all. I would be happy to demonstrate that in any council

Thank you Trevor for going behind the headlines. At least Terry's point of view has got me probing what I really think. Libraries are a huge asset and the idea of making books and knowledge available to all is definitely worth supporting and defending but when I remember libraries I have known - the dreary, dank local one in West London with uninspiring out of date popular fiction, a strong smell of latrines and a load of Council information leaflets; the travelling van with nothing on it but books you'd find at any car boot sale and the large, cold, empty but for a shivering librarian, Victorian building in the centre of a market town - I do have to ask if all are worth preserving. Should the Councils combine libraries with centres for old people to meet, talk and have a coffee or perhaps have exercise classes and places for youngsters to study and use the internet if they don't have broadband at home. The space could also be used by those running youth clubs or the equivalent. With modern insulation it must be possible to have quiet spaces as well as noisy rooms.

What should not be sacrificed is the level of training and knowledge required to qualify as a librarian. There may have to be fewer of them because of costs but those there are should remain as highly qualified as they have always been.

I'm really struggling to understand why he is saying these things? Is it ego, does he love a bit of notoriety? Is it really just about his lost sales because libraries are stealing his books? Does he actually believe libraries are finished? I'm very angry with him. I come from the same part of Sunderland that he does and it even today is a very, very poor and run down place. Most kids don't do well at school from Hendon, I know I didn't. The libraries in Sunderland are where I was educated away from the peer pressure and bullying that you get at school in a rough town if you know the answers to the questions in lessons. He is entitled to his views however much I disagree with him but you would have hoped that an adult with a degree of intelligence would comprehend that his views are not main stream and by publically stating them in the way he has they will resonant. Those who either don't understand the value of libraries or are ideologically opposed to them will be jumping on them because the political world is a simple one that lacks nuance and real open debate, its about spin, sound bites and ill-informed rhetoric. In expressing his views in the way he has done I think he's contributed to taking away the life chances of lots of kids from the poor areas in one of the poorest cities in England. Buy them kindles if you think thats the answer, the e-books are not cheap and the future of e-book lending is far from certain. The kids who really need libraries are being betrayed by our politicians and he should know better.

I think Deary's accountant has quite simply done a few calculations learned in business economics classes and arrived at the conclusion that his client being one of the most heavily read authors in the children's section could do just as well if not better without the libraries lending for free. Authors otherwise can gain from the literacy and literary culture created by the libraries. Mentioning the 1850 library act is a red herring, being brought into recent history with the 1964 libraries act - and indeed the remit of the libraries to provide the full breadth of our literary culture to the public in a way that is efficient for them to make use of is still just as much of value today as in 1964.

(I was reading computer experts in the news yesterday estimating it would take perhaps as long as 20 years for the UK to fully cultivate the computer security skills it needs as a matter of urgency at the moment. Being someone who is working on this issue at the moment myself, I sorely would like to put purchase requests in for needed technical books, but as a library employee I know also that this would be a very selfish thing to do at this point in time. The libraries are holding our culture back by not fulfilling their potential.)

Tim Coates I think could have maybe mentioned that he does not agree with the full closure of libraries (I'm sure myself he doesn't, taking the opportunity to posit a provocation as he tends to do, unfortunately provoking quite a few people more than he perhaps should do). However he is as usual reminding that the core mission of the libraries is authors and readers, and provoking the libraries to contemplate that they often outwardly seem to have forgotten this.

What is Tim Coates exactly asking for - if it's more money now is patently not the time!

Dreary and Coates are of the same mould - self-publicists at the expense of their own industry.

Shame on The Bookseller for allowing them such a high profile voice when what we need is sober and professional analysis to support the trade and push the debate forward.

I emailed him today and got a reply which he said I can stick up on my blog:

http://questioneverythingtheytellyou.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/you-can-be-o...

What I would like to see is exactly the same as I have been saying for fifteen years: more of the library funding should be spent on books

As a country we invest One thousand million pounds each year in a public library service, knowing that the reason for which it is most used is for people to read books

Last year only about thirty million pounds went to publishers. Authors will have received about three million pounds from book purchases. To that Public Lending Right adds a further six million, making nine million pounds for authors in total. I don't think that is nearly enough to do the job that the public want to see libraries do

Between six hundred and seven hundred million pounds was spent last year on staff and management in public libraries. I know from close scrutiny of many oouncils that there are substantial opportunities to make savings out of that amount without affecting the service to the public at all. I would be happy to demonstrate that in any council

Thank you Trevor for going behind the headlines. At least Terry's point of view has got me probing what I really think. Libraries are a huge asset and the idea of making books and knowledge available to all is definitely worth supporting and defending but when I remember libraries I have known - the dreary, dank local one in West London with uninspiring out of date popular fiction, a strong smell of latrines and a load of Council information leaflets; the travelling van with nothing on it but books you'd find at any car boot sale and the large, cold, empty but for a shivering librarian, Victorian building in the centre of a market town - I do have to ask if all are worth preserving. Should the Councils combine libraries with centres for old people to meet, talk and have a coffee or perhaps have exercise classes and places for youngsters to study and use the internet if they don't have broadband at home. The space could also be used by those running youth clubs or the equivalent. With modern insulation it must be possible to have quiet spaces as well as noisy rooms.

What should not be sacrificed is the level of training and knowledge required to qualify as a librarian. There may have to be fewer of them because of costs but those there are should remain as highly qualified as they have always been.