Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after.

Britain's new austerity budget has brought massive library closures across the country, with some communities in danger of ending up with no public library at all. When one Local Chief Counselor accused authors of defending libraries because they like the royalties they earn from the books libraries buy. In response, best-selling author Philip Pullman has given a stirring speech about the value of libraries to their communities and to civilization. Excerpted here:
"The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that's all he understands. What he doesn't understand is enterprises that don't make a profit, because they're not set up to do that but to do something different. He doesn't understand libraries at all, for instance. That branch - how much money did it make last year? Why aren't you charging higher fines? Why don't you charge for library cards? Why don't you charge for every catalogue search? Reserving books - you should charge a lot more for that. Those bookshelves over there - what's on them? Philosophy? And how many people looked at them last week? Three? Empty those shelves and fill them up with celebrity memoirs.

That's all the greedy ghost thinks libraries are for..."
Full text of the speech is here.

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