Libraries should be allowed to die, says top kids’ author - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 14 February

Libraries, those bastions of public learning open to anyone with a plastic membership card, should be allowed to wither and die, a leading children’s author said this week.


Libraries should be allowed to die, says top kids’ author

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 14 February


Libraries, those bastions of public learning open to anyone with a plastic membership card, should be allowed to wither and die, a leading children’s author said this week.

Terry Deary, the man behind the successful Horrible Histories series, spoke publicly yesterday about the need for libraries to be shut down as they have “had their day”. Harsh words from a man whose books have been borrowed 500,000 times over the past 12 months.

Library lending has declined dramatically in recent years – 14 per cent in adult fiction since 2007 – a phenomenon that is often blamed on the rise of the internet and the falling price of books. Interestingly, however, lending to children has climbed 13 per cent over the same period.

Most authors, particularly those operating in the children’s sector, have attacked the idea of town hall bosses closing down public libraries; Deary has taken the opposite view, saying they are no longer relevant in the 21st century.

Deary spoke to the UK newspaper Sunderland Echo, which had reported that the local council was exploring the possibility of closing several of its 20 libraries.

“Libraries have had their day,” Deary said. “They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go. I know some people like them but fewer and fewer people are using them and these are straitened times. A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimentality.

“The book is old technology and we have to move on, so good luck to the council.”

His comments drew stinging criticism from various corners, not least from his fellow authors who took to Twitter to voice their disagreement. Helena Pielichaty, author of the After School Club series, tweeted: “Terry Deary said what?? Books are so last season? Oh, get over yourself man.”

And Neil Gaiman, the comic book writer and novelist, agreed, labelling Deary “selfish”: “Selfish & stupid, shortsighted & sad. Mostly selfish. Terry Deary gets avaricious & anti-library”

In defending libraries, campaigners – including numerous authors – often point to how the institutions are providing an essential public service; that they give the public, especially those who do not have the money to buy books, access to the written word.

But perhaps Deary is right. Perhaps libraries are a bygone Victorian ideal and where they offered the poor access to literature in the 19th century, maybe schools do that these days instead.

Technology and the dawn of the e-book has cast a shadow not just over libraries but over physical books themselves. A future where people check 200-page tomes out of a building looks increasingly less likely as the Kindle and its ilk grow ever more popular.



Questions for your class


  • Do you think that e-books will eventually replace those made out of paper? What are the pros and cons of e-books?
  • Can you think of any other examples of digital technology replacing physical objects?
  • In your opinion, do libraries still have a place in our society?
  • Why do you think some authors felt the need to publicly voice their disagreement with Deary?

Related resources


World Book Day collection

  • Immerse yourselves in all things story-related with TES’ excellent collection to mark World Book Day.

Library corner displays

  • This eye-catching display will brighten up your library or classroom.

Library Quiz

  • Introduce your class to the idea of a library with this entertaining quiz.

Reading challenge booklet

  • Encourage your pupils to read more books, and to read more widely, with this challenge booklet.


Further news resources


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What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

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  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

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In the news this week


Alain de Botton, a philosopher and writer, wants serious ideas to be discussed more widely.

Scientists in the secretive single-party state of North Korea have carried out their third nuclear test, prompting alarm among other nations around the world.

The world has been shocked by the surprise announcement this morning that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month.

Nearly a quarter of sub-Saharan African children still do not have access to the most basic schooling, despite efforts over the past decade by world leaders to make sure that all children receive at least some education.



In the news archive index