Saturday 27 December 2008

Save the Library, Save the Book

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World was the slogan on which turned the first season of Heroes, the TV series about people with super powers.

In the real world however there is plenty that needs saving - and here's one campaign that should be dear to the hearts of all writers:

Save the Library, Save the Book.

Here's a sad fact: this year was the National Year of Reading in the United Kingdom and yet spending on books for public libraries is down for the third year running.

Libraries are in trouble. Which means books are in trouble.

Not that books haven't always been in trouble.

Technology relentlessly produces threats to the ascendancy of the book - the telephone, cinema, the radio, TV, and now, the internet have all been accused of ushering the End of the Book. But rumours of the Book's demise has always turned out to be exaggerated.

Here's why I think libraries are important to children's writers like ourselves:
  • Libraries create readers.

  • Libraries aren't Borders or Waterstone's or Tesco. However wonderful a bookstore may be, it is still a business driven by profit. If libraries were properly funded and buying enough books to keep publishers happy, publishers will have the breathing space to take risks with new authors, more "literary" books. They will have enough bottom line to nurture unripe talent.

  • Librarians love books. A librarian will recommend a book because he/she has read it and loved it. Not because of some statistic that a sales rep has produced or because a publisher has paid for its promotion.
Having said all that, I recently visited a library local to me where there was no comfortable seating in the adult section, when I asked if I could sit in the children's section, the librarian tried to discourage me from hanging around, then scolded me for keeping a pile of books on my table because they were made unavailable to others (the library was empty).

The thing is, libraries have to change too. I am not just talking about technology or serving a better latte than Borders, I am talking about becoming a place where the young people of today would want to hang out.

Books I Borrowed Last Week:

by Garth Nix

Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

The Savage by David Almond

The Red Necklace by Sally Garner

The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
Save the Library, Save the Book ...

If you haven't yet signed up to the Campaign for the Book, do so now. Go to this Facebook page and sign up. Here is the draught charter as conceived by author Allan Gibbons (Shadow of the Minotaur). Attend the conference for the campaign on Saturday, 27 June 2009 at King Edward's School in Birmingham.

Blog about the situation (feel free to use the image I created above). Visit a school. Borrow books at your local library and post a list of the books you've borrowed on your blog (check out mine above!)

Save the Library ... who knows, the book you save might be yours.


  1. It's a different story, but it's really interesting to see how libraries in higher education are changing to meet the new day - and I think it's that kind of thinking that is necessary to libraries per se. In higher education, instead of librarians just doing what libraries do, (dusting the Dewey system, finding books, stamping books, reading books, advising on books), in HE they are getting more actively involved with building information networks, sharing information, finding information and using technology, the internet etc to do so - to the benefit of their clients. Obviously children's literature is a whole different field, but the same sort of lateral and client needs based thinking applies. Libraries need to find a way of making themselves relevant again - if they can find that role, the reason for keeping them will be that much more powerful.

  2. Thanks again for posting about this, Candy. I for one do not want to see a day when children ask the question: "A book? What's that? Was it something you had in the old days?" If we allow libraries to be made into computer suites, it is not an impossible scenario....


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