I was getting very cross with Terry Deary's comments so I decided to email him to try and understand where he is coming from. The complete exchange is below. He did give his permission for me to put this up:
This bit is my initial email :
We don't know each other but I come from the East End of Sunderland, next to Hendon where I understand you are from, growing up it was as you no doubt know a utter shit hole. I didn't do that well at school and my home life wasn't great but the one thing that helped me better myself in life was libraries. I know you have strong views and I'm sure the PLR money isn't fair but libraries are something that are of massive benefit to society. How can anything that provides information and knowledge to anyone without any prejudice be a bad thing? If I was growing up today a kindle would be as much use as a door stop because I wouldn't be able to afford the e-books and libraries offered the space away from home and the bullies at school to learn.
Please re-consider your views on this, libraries aren't finished and are still vitally important. Councillors and politicians are going to jump on your words and use them as justification for closing libraries. There will be lots of kids from the rough parts of Sunderland that libraries will offer a way out to. It did for me.
With best wishes,
p.s. I am very angry about this and I hope you will take up the offers of a public debate so I can at least understand better what it is that informs your views"
Too which he kindly replied:
I am not sure exactly what you have read of my views – the media distorts and edits mercilessly. What I have been trying to say is that I want all people of all ages to have access to literature. A book is filled with an author’s ideas and its purpose is to entertain and communicate with a reader. A library is just a building. I want to know if libraries (buildings) are still the best way to enable writers and readers to come together. I am asking a question, not proposing a solution. If librarians feel threatened by that question then you should not. If they are doing a wonderful job that justifies every penny of taxpayer’s money you have NOTHING to worry about.
If you are arguing that socially deprived children from places like Hendon need access to books then I agree wholeheartedly (as you can imagine). But the answer is to find the BEST way to ensure EVERY Hendon kid has the BEST access. Many children (like me) found libraries intimidating places full of old stock with old attitudes, wholly inappropriate to children growing up in the 1950s. But just because they were useful in the past doesn’t mean they have a God-given right to exist forever. The world is changing at an ever-increasing pace. I’m not advocating the closure of libraries – I am saying that, when there are so many social and economic problems, the libraries have to work much harder to justify their existence and demonstrate they are fit-for-purpose (sorry, horrible phrase) in 2013 and beyond. YES, they were great in the past and, yes, they helped people like yourself. Can they still do the same today? Can they do better? That’s all I’m asking.
A public debate? Sorry I am not a fan of debates. I can air my views and someone can argue against me but will a “debate” change a single thing? I’m not convinced. And you would not believe the amount of vile abuse I’ve received for daring to challenge the orthodoxy. Do I really want to stand up to be shot down? It is very tiring at my age to be on the receiving end of so much spite and bitterness. On which note I must sincerely thank you for your considered and courteous message … I would never have guessed you were angry until your footnote said so. I wish everyone were as restrained and intelligent.
All the best
There was a couple of further brief bits but they are not worth putting up, its fair to say Terry has similar views to the political classes as I do but it adds nothing to the libraries debate that is going on. There has been a lot of stuff flying round on this now, included stuff by me on various comments boards. He is right to say the media edit and distort peoples views and take things out of context. I am going to have a re-read of all the stuff written on this and try and reconcile it to the view he has given above.