In Defense of Libraries

In February, British children’s book author Terry Dreary made the case to his local council that they should cut the funding for the local library, a proposition they were already investigating. Dreary is, based on the Guardian’s report, the second most checked out author at all British libraries, and he feels slighted by the lack of sales his books get due to the frequency with which they are checked out. He makes a secondary point that booksellers are also missing out on potential revenue to libraries. His most prominent point is that libraries are “no longer relevant.”

As a child, I looked forward to two things: reading books and buying books from the Scholastic flyers we got routinely at school. Unfortunately, I could only pick out one or two books at a time. I had to supplement those one or two books every two months or so with books from the minuscule school library and the equally diminutive town library. (When your town has less than 300 residents, libraries tend to be quite small.) Even now as an adult, buying books would break my budget, but borrowing books allows me to sample different authors. If I like that author, I’m much more likely to purchase their next book. Or if I really like the book, I’ll go out and buy the book both to support the author and “decorate” my bookshelves.

Many children and adults who love books still live in equally small rural towns or just cannot afford to purchase enough (or any) books to satiate their literary appetites. As commenters on Nathan Bransford’s blog state, libraries create readers. Many a child has marveled at the vastness of books and knowledge contained within the walls of the library. (Even children with super small local libraries marvel at its size and contents.) As a book lover, I can’t stand behind something that would limit people’s access to books.

What do you think about the fight to save libraries? If you were a published author, would you feel differently?

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9 thoughts on “In Defense of Libraries

      • Oh, I absolutely agree. My first and most prominent childhood library memory is of losing a book on Owls and never returning it. Through a couple moves in my childhood, I never found that book! My mom had to just pay for it.

        My almost 3-year-old daughter already loves the library. She loves the little computer, the little chairs, the puppet stage and ALL of the books right at her finger tips. It makes me so happy that she enjoys going there. I really hope that should she have kids someday, they’ll be able to experience the joy of a library in some form or another.

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      • Haha I loved hearing about your owl book. A true literary fan if ever I heard! You’ve obviously passed your love of books to your daughter. Like you, I really hope she and other children share similar lovely memories. Thanks for posting your comment!

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    • Lauren, It’s hard to say for sure, but I can definitely see most, if not all, small towns doing away with their libraries. Libraries cost money: the building/operating costs, books, a librarian’s salary. Small towns will, unfortunately, make the easy justification that people can turn to Amazon for their books. That will, in turn, put up a barrier between poor people and the other people in rural areas who still don’t have access to quality internet from being able to access books affordably. For example, the small town I grew up in no longer has a school (no school library) or the public library. I’m not sure if these people can get a free library card to other local libraries or not.

      I don’t think the prospect of living in a library-less society is close, though. I think there are still plenty of people who will fight for libraries.

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