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Bestselling author riles many, calling libraries 'no longer relevant'

British writer Terry Deary, author of the 'Horrible Histories' children's series, says that libraries have 'had their day' and that there is no 'entitlement to read books for free.'

By Husna Haq / February 15, 2013

Courtney MacArthur reads to her daughter Mackenzie at the Longmont Public Library in Colorado.

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A bestselling British children’s author is advocating for the closure of public libraries, saying they “have been around too long,” “are no longer relevant,” and have “had their day.”

Terry Deary, author of the bestselling children’s series “Horrible Histories,” has been raising ire in the UK – and beyond – with his controversial claim that libraries are outdated and hurtful to the publishing industry.

"I'm not attacking libraries, I'm attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant," Deary told the Guardian. “...we've got this idea that we've got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.”

Deary, who ironically is the seventh-most borrowed children’s writer from UK libraries, said libraries are hurting the industry.

“Books aren't public property, and writers aren't Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. They've got to make a living. Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat. We don't expect to go to a food library to be fed.”

He added that bookstores are closing down "because someone is giving away the product they are trying to sell. What other industry creates a product and allows someone else to give it away, endlessly?”

Not surprisingly, Deary’s comments have riled library-lovers in the UK, many of whom are lobbying to save the country’s libraries that are threatened by budget woes.

“Some of us who have devoted enormous amounts of time and effort to the library cause, who have marched and petitioned, lobbied and demonstrated, argued with councilors and ministers, feel utterly betrayed by Terry's words,” fellow author Alan Gibbons told the Guardian.

But it was author Neil Gaiman, who delivered a knockout commencement speech earlier this year in Philadelphia, who hit the nail on the head in a recent tweet: “...libraries make readers. They don’t starve authors.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.


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