Monday 8 February 2016

Save Our Libraries

I've had a crazy busy week.  My debut novel, More of Me, has been pushed into the world with a lot more ease than my babies were. Kind Of. The gestation period was considerably longer but the delivery a whole lot less painful. In fact, it was kind of wonderful. My friends and family ensured I had two sellout book launches and my publicists at Usborne have been shouting about my book from the rooftops. I've had some amazing reviews , so much so I can barely believe it's all happening. So, to ground myself firmly back on earth,  you'll be pleased to know I am  not going to talk about my book.

  If you want to read about the launch it's all here  but first...

I'm going to talk about libraries. 

I love libraries. A lot of authors do. In fact, very many notable figures are a major part of the campaign to Save Our Libraries because they are seriously under threat from financial cutbacks. Cathy Cassidy is a stalwart of the campaign, as is Philip Ardagh. 

Ah ha! I hear you say, of course authors want to keep libraries, they are rolling in cash from all the loans. Well, not exactly. Authors currently receive just over 7 pence per loan and the full amount you can receive is capped. No author is going to become a millionaire from public lending rights money, even fellow SCBWI member Paula Harrison whose Rescue Princesses books were borrowed almost 50,000 times last year! - in fact you need around 85,000 loans to take you to the current cap. I shall let you do the maths.

It is indeed a useful income supplement for authors whose average incomes have dropped to below £11,000 per year but not, you will agree, champagne and caviar money.

So why do authors keep gathering together and banging on about saving libraries? Surely they'd be far happier if everyone went out and bought the books?  Well...

No. Because most authors write to be read and the more people who read them, the better. And most authors understand that not everyone can afford a houseful of books and that not all children are born into households where books are considered important. If you want equality of education, of development, you need libraries. If you want all children to have access to the same level of resources, at the very least, you need libraries. If you want any kind of fairness in society, you need libraries.

Nick Gibb, our current minister for schools says: “Reading for pleasure is more important than a family’s socio-economic status in determining a child’s success at school,” 

Children learn so much from books. Books don't just inform us of facts, or teach us how to express ourselves, children who read become better empathisers as Natascha Biebow eloquently explains  on Picture Book Den. Books can comfort and distract older children from anxiety.  They can help them understand the hugely complex world they are growing up in.

 I know there are many adults that also rely on library services but three out of the top five library loans in 2015 were children's books. Go and visit the children's section in your local library  You'll maybe see mum's and toddlers for story time - brilliant for mum's to make contact with other mums, brilliant for kids to hear stories. You'll see teens in corners checking out whether they really want to read the book whose cover looked so attractive - or furtively checking out the guides to being a teenager. You might catch a few newly independent readers excitedly looking for the next Paula Harrison or Cathy Cassidy or Philip Ardagh book.  I can guarantee you, the library matters to those kids - to all the people who use them:.

I was very lucky, I came  from a house where we did have books - not a huge number, there were four of us kids and not a lot of money, but I always had a book for Christmas and my birthday or if the book fair came to our school -  and  my Mum made sure we got into the library habit. Once a week, off we went - and I never lost that habit. I grew up in Portsmouth library. The books I wolfed down informed the writer I am today.  They really did.

I can trace the influences of all the classics: Hardy, Dickens, Bronte ( all three), Austen, Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, Frank Herbert - my appetite was voracious. Even if we'd have been a rich family, my parents wouldn't have been able to keep up. There are still kids  like me using libraries. They don't all have a kindle - they just don't. I'm sorry,  but you're a twit if you think they do.

So please, if you want a fair, informed, empathetic, equal society - back our libraries.

You can find out more on the Library Campaign Website. 

Kathryn Evans also blogs on My Life Under Paper and you can follow her mood swings on twitter: @mrsbung    Her debut novel, More of Me, is out now.


  1. We didn't have many books at home. I binged when I got my first library card. That was my training as a writer. I have 5 books on loan now. 310 million issues per year tells a story. I've signed every petition going.
    Well done on a successful launch.

  2. Thank you so much - it seems so crazy - we seem to be mostly in universal agreement about the value of libraries and yet so little is being done by government to protect them - short sighted madness

  3. Agreed well done on your launch and the shout out for libraries...I have loved them and my book was written in the magical London Library. At Christmas I was in Rutland, lost my phone, keys, money, the lot - in a panic dashed into the Library - was given a coffee and was given free use of their landline..

    THE most important thing to keep libraries not only open but as a resource.

    1. I agree - they should be the pulsing heart at the centre of our communities. Or the pulsing brain.

  4. Well said, Kathy! Libraries are the great civilisers of socieities!


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