Deary me, how terryble

If you haven’t got money you won’t want to read books. In fact, you shouldn’t have the right to read them, because (other) taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund your free reading. Rather like education. Why should those with no children pay to put other people’s kids through school?

Those pesky children might of course turn out to be the surgeon who saves your life 25 years later, but never mind that. Let’s live for today.

The Resident IT Consultant felt I was being strangely insincere in wanting to hang on to libraries, seeing as I don’t – currently – use them. That’s mainly because I already have access to all I can read. I used libraries until I moved to Britain, even after I discovered I could afford to buy English paperbacks. I read more than I bought.

Then I must have fallen foul of the ‘I am new here and I don’t quite know what to do in someone else’s library’ law, so didn’t. When Offspring arrived they had the school library, and before that there were all the book parties. Usborne and Red House parties were de rigueur in my neighbourhood.

And after that the mobile library parked in our street and I went every time it came. I stopped because I helped in Offspring’s secondary school library and there were so many books there I was in heaven. Once I stopped at the school, the mobile library had gone to park elsewhere (was it my fault..?) and I spent a year or two buying books again, since we could afford to, until Bookwitch was born and soon after her, the TBR piles arrived on the scene.

So that’s me. I have very little against libraries. I think we should hang on to the ones we have. Occasionally people with no money want to read books. Quite often people with money read nothing at all. The reading/not reading is not connected to the wallet, unless it has to be.

The well-off middle class children Offspring used to play with in the mid 1990s were delighted to discover libraries when they came along one day. They were readers already, but knew nothing about libraries. I blame the parents.

For obvious reasons, the mobile library had limited shelf space. But I found good stuff there. It’s the place I was introduced to Malorie Blackman and Gillian Cross, and which allowed me to work my way through ‘all’ of theirs. I found Tim Bowler, too, and the lovely and murderous Kate Ellis. They all went on to become firm book friends of the whole family.

Would I have discovered them without the library? I might have been waylaid by something garish and pink in some shop. Who knows?

And as for what authors get from libraries. They acquire readers. As someone pointed out in the Guardian; you can get ideas in the library, and then you go out and buy books. Another thing I’ve noticed authors are ridiculously fond of is the PLR money. So many of them aren’t dreadfully wealthy, and they are happy when that PLR cheque arrives every year. I know, because facebook is awash with PLR happiness for a day or two.

Then there is the greater good. J K Rowling is always saying how grateful she was for benefits, back when she wasn’t rich. She doesn’t need PLR, but I doubt she begrudges others that money. J K wasn’t uneducated, just a bit short of funds. Perhaps she even went to libraries.

Sometimes intelligence and the wish to read doesn’t increase with the bank balance. Actually, it could even be the reverse.

If and when my supply of review copies dries up, I’ll be down at the library too. If it’s still there.

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10 responses to “Deary me, how terryble

  1. Well said, Bookwitch!
    I’m not going to go into the fact that my father was entirely self educated by means of his library- being the son of an impecunious chimney sweep in a three book house. Or the family story of how his life long best friend (shipped out of Poland just in time in 1938, four years old and never to see any of his family again) had to be coaxed through the doors by my teenage dad because he couldn’t believe such an amazing place was free. Or that I myself very nearly lived in my local library, along with my book gobbling sisters.
    I could write about librarys in the past forever. They make good stories.

    The thing is, they are still doing it. I was in my library last week. I haven’t lost the library habit and I don’t think I ever will (PLR in my case being three times my royalty earnings and my way of paying the council tax).
    My library was being very well used. There were toddlers in the children’s bit where someone (a toddler mum?) was reading aloud, and older people at the tables with newspapers (where else can you go and read a newspaper in COMPANY at a table in the warm?) and a few students and the usual armloaded floaters, and a very patient librarian finding Poems on the Underground for a young man who had never been to London (this is not a well heeled part of the country) and at the same time listening to all his concerns about the dangers of underground train travelling and reassuring and encouraging him. And another one sorting out voluntary work for someone. I was only in ten minutes and that’s what I saw. I didn’t go upstairs to the huge reference part, or across to music, or the the free computers, or the coffee room but I’m sure they were being equally appreciated.
    It is the most needed place in town. Anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to close a library should go and spend a week in one first. And if after that they still come out as ignorant as they went in, they should be kindly issued a membership card and educated out of their miserable state.
    Which they would be.
    That’s what I think.

  2. Sorry, that was a bit long!

  3. No, it wasn’t. Well said! Oh, I see you said that.
    I like people to comment.

  4. Writers in the US don’t get PLR money, sadly. But we do gain readers and it’s free PR. The day that libraries go out of business, I will truly feel like civilization is dead. (And yes, I’m an American librarian and a writer, so I might be a bit biased, but I loved libraries before I was either of those things.)

  5. I must have got 95% of my book ideas from libraries. And being mentored through childhood by the Retired Children’s Librarian will have had an effect.

  6. Also, I am doing my utmost not to post an old photo on here, featuring Mr TD and Daughter. Mine, that is. She looks a bit embarrassed, as well she might.

  7. Yes!
    We need libraries and if we don’t need them we need to recognize that someone else may.
    Canadian writers do benefit from a PLR program as well, but beyond that I think that most of us are daft and altruistic enough to think about our books in a way that extends beyond sales and royalties. A reader is a reader is a reader.

  8. Hear flipping hear! As I’ve already said on my blog, and have already said on Twitter – the assumption is that working-class low-income parents have suddenly morphed into ‘book scroungers’ because they use public free libraries and can’t spend what little disposable income they have (if any) on new (and quite often expensive) books. We would do the same, if our review copies dried up overnight (which does actually happen from time to time, even now), we rely on the library to keep the blog going, so we can keep spreading the word about brilliant children’s books. For the love of doing just that. Not because with each and every stamp of the library ticket we’re looking to undermine someone else’s revenue stream.

    I’ve also said many times that libraries are where we often discover authors and illustrators we’ve never heard of before – thus when we do come round to buying books, we can make a more informed and better decision on what to buy next based on works we’ve already tried for free. Call it a demo if you like, call it free promotion for your work that you wouldn’t have if libraries were dissolved in Deary’s idyll.

  9. There was a book which I fruitlessly attempted to get for free from Penguin last year. The Resident IT Consultant has just borrowed it from the library for me. I will feel under no obligation to review it. I probably will, but I can please myself.

  10. Libraries shaped my reading by giving me the chance to take in pretty much anything I wanted for free. If my parents had had to buy every book I consumed then the choice would have been limited and I’d have read us out of house and home.

    On the plus side, TD and John Sclazi inspired me to write this post very simialr to yours:
    http://nolanparker.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/a-personal-history-of-libraries/

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