DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Feb 27 2013

A Personal History of Libraries

by Jesse M

Recently, science fiction author John Scalzi wrote an article on his blog entitled A Personal History of Libraries, in which he recounted his first experience with the library and outlined some other fond memories of the libraries that have been a part of his life and the positive and substantive impact they’ve had. Here’s a particularly touching quote regarding his first visit to a library when he was five years old:

I remember specifically, although not by name, a picture book a [sic] pulled down from the rows, about children leaping for the moon. It was explained to me that I could take the book home — and not just that book, but any book I wanted in the entire library. I remember thinking, in a five year old’s vocabulary, how unbelievably perfect.

Scalzi’s post in defense of the public library was inspired by an article recently published in The Guardian quoting popular children’s author Terry Deary stating that libraries “have been around too long” and are “no longer relevant”. Among the charges Deary lays at the feet of public libraries are that

“libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back…What other industry creates a product and allows someone else to give it away, endlessly? The car industry would collapse if we went to car libraries for free use of Porsches … Librarians are lovely people and libraries are lovely places, but they are damaging the book industry.

He goes on to wonder “Why are all the authors coming out in support of libraries when libraries are cutting their throats and slashing their purses?”

Scalzi responds directly to this notion by saying:

I bought new books by the authors I was introduced to in the library, and bought the old books that checked out so many times from the library, because now I could afford to own them. I bought books on the subjects I first became interested in by wandering through the library stacks. I bought as gifts the books I had grown to love and wanted others to love, too. I had become a fervent buyer of books because libraries made it easy to become a fervent reader of books—to make them a necessary part of my life.

Do you think there is any credence to the claims Terry Deary makes, that libraries are no longer relevant, and actively harm the book industry and authors whose works fill their shelves? Or do Scalzi and other defenders of the library have the right of it? Let us know in the comments.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jencey Gortney February 28, 2013 at 12:54 PM

I like the author grew up in the libraries. I tend to agree with John Scalzi that there will always be a purpose for the library. I do feel that there will always be a need for libraries. Most patrons can’t afford to go out and buy a book so since the library provides a great alternative. It is great to have access to such resources.

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