Horrible Howler

When I first heard about the recent comments made by Terry Deary, the author of Horrible Histories, I honestly thought it was satire.  Nope. Turns out that this popular children’s author really doesn’t appear to understand what libraries are for. His statements weren’t satirical. They were criminally neglectful. He says that libraries are no longer relevant. He thinks that libraries are the reason book stores are closing and he isn’t earning what he feels entitled to.

Horrible_idiocyThere are so many wrongheaded opinions in the Guardian article that you almost don’t know where to start. You could list rebuttals all night. Libraries are still completely relevant. Libraries are where children learn to love books and later become buying customers of his. Not everyone can afford to buy books – and denying access to culture and knowledge to those less well off is just wrong. Libraries offer free social services and act as a community hub for elderly, disabled and unemployed people. Students need free acess to reference materials (some text books cost hundreds of pounds). Small business owners might need to research trade publications that they can’t afford to subscribe to. All this and more is available for free at your local library and that’s the civilised way to go about things.

I was left almost gasping for breath at the sheer ignorance of Terry’s statements and would probably have written a rant to argue him point by point, had I not already written a piece for Public Libraries News about my local library which clearly illustrates what modern libraries are all about.

Let’s end this on the over-used but necessary quote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Please support your local library and challenge those who would spout arrogant nonsense about this vital service. You don’t want to live in a world where everything is commercial.

9 thoughts on “Horrible Howler

  1. He’s right on one thing though, library usage is falling, by every measure you choose to pick, and it has been falling away for a decade or more. Factually, he’s correct, which makes the hysterical attacks on him insanely divorced from reality.

    • “Factually, he’s correct”. Did you actually read his original statements? He has said that book shops are suffering because libraries offer books “for free”. He thinks libraries are irrelevant because children should learn to read at school, and that anyone wishing to read a book should be prepared to buy it. He is having a tantrum because he feels that he isn’t getting paid for all his books that people can take out for free from the libraries. He has completely, profoundly, misunderstood what libraries offer, who uses them and why. The poor person who can’t afford to buy books wouldn’t have been his customer in the first place. The well-off person will borrow from the library and buy books later. The student will need access to reference materials that would be too expensive for him to obtain. Children learn to love reading in libraries, not in schools. Etc, etc. Libraries need to keep up with modern times, they need to evolve – absolutely. But we must give them a chance to do that. Wealthy people who have a blinkered view that is akin to “let them eat cake” are not able to comprehend that not everyone can afford an ipad, an e-reader or even to buy books. Libraries are a vital service to a large segment of the society. The reason book shop sales are falling is Amazon and e-readers; discount books offered in supermarkets. Nothing whatsoever to do with libraries, as Deary claims. Who is insanely divorced from reality?

    • I would beg to differ. Specifically with your blank statement ‘library usage is falling, by every measure you choose to pick’. As is most often the case such a blandly broad brush statement conceals a more complex reality.
      The number of loans from libraries may be in decline overall; however there are significant differences between local authority areas.
      Libraries in the most deprived areas show less or no decline and in certain places an increase in loans.
      Moreover, where investment has been made into providing a broader range of learning and other services from a library setting footfall – a much better measure of how libraries are used and valued – has significantly increased in many places.
      I live in an inner city area where libraries are very well used and are increasingly relevant as a means of combating e-exclusion and seeking to (as they have always done) compensating for home environments that may not be conducive to study and learning.
      Frankly, I find the author’s baseless arguments that have their genesis in his unjustified feeling that he is not profiting adequately from his work (there are separate copyright arrangements for library books incidentally) to be rather hysterical and sad.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Terry Deary is an all round grumpy bollock of a man.

    Coming from a family of booksellers, I have heard many an encounter relayed. He seemingly hated doing readings or any instore promo of his own books and was moderately indifferent to the young fans that attended.

    Shame really, as a whole bunch of the Horrible Histories were utterly cracking to read.

  3. Oh and I wholly disagree with him on the library front. Our local has now reduced it’s hours so drastically that the librarians are seeing several hundred people through the doors on the 2 full days and 1 half day that is currently opens. Today, I saw a high-vis vest clad snake of school children – each clutching a book bag – being walked carefully back to the local infant school.
    They all looked thoroughly overjoyed at their literary treasures and statistically you can guarantee that several of them will not have ready access to books at home or be encouraged to seek them out.
    Schools need libraries. People need libraries. Terry Deary can bugger off back to his ivory tower and stop pissing on the peasants below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s