Thursday, February 14, 2013

Save the Libraries

Not long ago, I posted about the closings of Barnes & Noble stores, and libraries, and I shared my thoughts on how wonderful libraries are.  Don't tell anyone,  but I actually like returning books late, because I feel like when I pay my library fines, I'm helping to contribute to the library, over and above the contribution made by my tax dollars.

Tonight, I read an article that has me outraged.  At first I couldn't believe it, so I googled it.  Sadly, it's true.

What is so outrageous?  What is so sad?  I'll tell you.

There's a British children's author, named Terry Deary.  Mr. Deary has written over 200 books, and has sold over 25 million copies.  Cool, huh?  You might be thinking that Mr. Deary must be pretty pleased with himself ---  I'm quite sure I'd be pretty pleased if I'd written over 200 books and sold over 25 million copies ---  but if that's what you think, you are horribly wrong.  Believe it or not Mr. Deary is annoyed,  and more than just a little ticked off, because he's worried about all the money that he's missing out on, when people check his books out from the library, rather than buying them.

Yes, you read that correctly... no typos there.  Mr. Deary told the Guardian Newspaper that "the concept behind libraries ...  is no longer relevant".  He squawks about the fact that people have this mistaken belief that they are entitled to read books for free, and that books are public property.  He suggests that even if we want to hold on to the Victorian notion that we should provide poor people with access to literature, we don't need libraries to do that, because poor people get this access through compulsory schooling.


Curiously enough, just a few years ago, Terry Deary stated in an interview that "schools are an utter waste of young life".  He predicted that schools would become obsolete within twenty-five years, being replaced by mentors, and further announced that "teachers know nothing about life and the real needs of pupils".  Oh yeah, he described schools as "a Victorian idea to get kids off the street".

What's that, you say?  This sounds familiar?  Hmmm.  You've got a point.   First Deary says that schools are a Victorian notion, and now he says that libraries are a Victorian idea and unnecessary,  because we have schools.

Oh, and here's another thing about dear Mr. Deary.  In between announcing that schools are a waste of time, and libraries are irrelevant, he described historians as seedy, devious, and contemptible.  Oh I'm sorry, did I forget to tell you that Mr. Deary's best selling children's books are the Horrible Histories series? Yes, that's right, history.

I don't know if all of this is just a cheap ploy on the part of Deary to get some attention, or if he enjoys creating controversy, or if he's just a mean and curmudgeonly coot.  But fortunately, he seems to be alone.  His most recent remarks  - the ones about libraries and how unfair it is to authors to let people borrow books instead of buying them - seem to have no support.. not even among other authors.  At a quick glance, I'm seeing that Neil Gaiman (author of Stardust, and The Sandman, and tons of other stuff), and Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat), and Alan Gibbons, another British author of children's books, have all come out in favor of libraries, and against Mr. Deary's position.  Strongly against.  One of Neil Gaiman's tweets refers to Deary as stupid, selfish and shortsighted.  Perhaps my favorite response comes from David Almond, yet another British author of children's books, who calls  Deary's remarks "ignorant twaddle".

The more I think about this, the worse it makes me feel.  Almost makes me wish I had children, so that I could make sure they never read any of his books.

Mr. Deary -- I sincerely hope this was all a joke.  I think not... it's right in line with your ridiculous remarks about schools and historians.  But still, I hope this was a joke.  It would really be a shame if a prolific, successful author was truly anti-library.

My usual Typhoo tea with lemon, and a bit of sweet-n-low, isn't enough... I need something stronger.  I think tonight I'll drink my tea black.


  1. Seems perhaps Mr. Dreary (spelled wrong on purpose)needs to seek some medical attention. Incredible.

  2. I followed this controversy on Twitter yesterday.

    Steven Brust said, "I'm trying to come up with something clever to express my disgust with Terry Deary. I want, "Like an X saying Y." Drawing a blank. Contest?" Will Frank said, "It's kind of hard to top "like a writer hating libraries," is the thing." Steven's winning choice, by @vstojkovic: "Or maybe like Pope saying that the Sunday Mass has had its day."

    The absolute best response to this deluded Deary person:

    Can't top that one, I'm thinking.

  3. How do you even reply to someone like that? Is it greed? Is it ego? Is it a little of both?

    Marc Morris was the best response, Kat. You were right.