Editorial- Let’s Keep Libraries Around
By Jacob Mathias
A few weeks ago, bestselling UK author Terry Deary, author of the “Horrible Histories” children’s book series presented a now hotly contested argument that public libraries have become irrelevant and that their continuing to exist is hurting the publishing industry. Since then, authors and readers everywhere have countered Mr. Deary, and shown that he is among the smallest minority in his thinking.
His comments enraged me. They downright ticked me off. While I’m not able to assess a fair analysis of the library system’s impact on the publishing industry, I can assess its effect on me.
I grew up in a small town of less than 1000 people. Entertainment was often sparse, a book store even harder to come by without driving about an hour in any given direction. In my formative years, e-books had yet to become a thing, online shopping in the form of Amazon.com had yet to become what it is today, and as a kid with no money, that wasn’t an option anyway.
What I did have was the public library. I could ride my bike there. The librarian was my friend’s mom. She read every book in the library and always had a suggestion for me. It was a small library. Just one room, about half the size of a basketball court, filled with shelves. When a book I wanted wasn’t available, my librarian friends would order it for me from another library.
Because of my time at the library, my only venue for a regular stream of reading, I am what I am today. I love stories, I love conversations, I love writing (although I’ll admit, I need practice). Because of reading, I’ve done so many things I could never have done before.
I’ve ridden a dragon, been a tribute, a mistborn, a jedi, a god, and a devil. I travelled into obsession with Dorian Gray. I saved Middle-Earth. I was in a fight club. I’ve rolled in a tire into Boo Radley’s yard. I’ve followed the beam to the dark tower with Roland and his ka-tet. I’ve been a wizard countless times. I’ve been a member of the Knight’s Watch, defending my realm against the wildlings and white walkers.
And I have to ask Mr. Deary, what have you done today? Because I rode through the Swedish countryside in winter to keep a promise to a friend, and I killed a zombie.
Libraries are the reason I’ve done all these things. Libraries are how I became who I am today.
So I encourage all my readers to go to the library, check out a book, give a dollar; give 20 if you can afford it.
Also in April is World Book Night. A night in which, volunteers throughout the country give away hundreds of thousands of books, donated by authors and publishers who gave no thought to royalties and profits, but rather just wanted to spread the love of reading. Keep an eye out on the night of April 23rd for someone with a stack of books, trying to share the love of reading.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go solve a murder (I think the mother-in-law did it).