Horrible Histories Author Terry Deary On Libraries: ‘No Longer Relevant’

Posting to LinkedIn about Terry Deary’s article in the Guardian

In the original Guardian article, Deary is quoted saying:
“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant,” Deary told the Guardian, 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,” said Deary, …”

Comparing this attitude with that of Andrew Carnegie in his Autobiography (https://ia700506.us.archive.org/8/items/autobiographyofa17976gut/17976-h/17976-h.htm) is illuminating. Carnegie wrote about Col. James Anderson, who let Carnegie use his library when he was a boy. In one of the libraries Carnegie built, he put an inscription:
“To Colonel James Anderson, Founder of Free Libraries in Western Pennsylvania. He opened his Library to working boys and upon Saturday afternoons acted as librarian, thus dedicating not only his books but himself to the noble work. This monument is erected in grateful remembrance by Andrew Carnegie, one of the “working boys” to whom were thus opened the precious treasures of knowledge and imagination through which youth may ascend.

This is but a slight tribute and gives only a faint idea of the depth of gratitude which I feel for what he did for me and my companions. It was from my own early experience that I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive of good to boys and girls who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it, as the founding of a public library in a community which is willing to support it as a municipal institution. I am sure that the future of those libraries I have been privileged to found will prove the correctness of this opinion. For if one boy in each library district, by having access to one of these libraries, is half as much benefited as I was by having access to Colonel Anderson’s four hundred well-worn volumes, I shall consider they have not been established in vain….”

Of course, Terry Deary does not have Andrew Carnegie’s wealth, but their attitudes are completely different.

I also want authors to eat (publishers and booksellers may be dinosaurs of the past, as Deary seems to think about libraries), but the new realities are forcing everyone to find new business models. Shutting down a public good–a library–would most probably cause more problems than it would solve.

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