Friday, January 28, 2011

Philip Pullman defends public libraries

I found this article through one of the library groups I belong to on Facebook, which was the Guardian's attempt to praise and highlight Philip Pullman's speech done on Jan 20, 2011 about defending Oxfordshire libraries and how many people read it (around 20K in two days). While I thought it was a well-done article, I wanted to see the real speech as I had read in the Guardian article that it was stellar, plus I'm a huge Philip Pullman fan, especially of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Thankfully, they have posted it online here for all to view and I must say it is excellent. I particularly like the following points: 

  • Where he points out that it is Mr. Keith Mitchell's job (as leader of the county council) to "protect the library services"
  • "Nor do I think we should respond to the fatuous idea that libraries can stay open if they’re staffed by volunteers. What patronising nonsense. Does he think the job of a librarian is so simple, so empty of content, that anyone can step up and do it for a thank-you and a cup of tea? Does he think that all a librarian does is to tidy the shelves?" - amen, you need a Master's Degree to be a public librarian
  • "What I personally hate about this bidding culture is that it sets one community, one group, one school, against another. If one wins, the other loses." - i.e. that all these community organizations have to bid on 600K pounds as that is all the county council is providing; and with 20 libraries set to close, they probably won't get more than 10K pounds as he points out earlier
  • "The human joy and pleasure goes out of it; books are published not because they’re good books but because they’re just like the books that are in the bestseller lists now, because the only measure is profit." - Sad but true
  • "Apparently Mr Mitchell thinks that we authors who defend libraries are only doing it because we have a vested interest – because we’re in it for the money...No, Mr Mitchell, it isn’t for the money. I’m doing it for love." - yay!
  • "But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination." - what I'm hoping every librarian wishes for their patrons
  • "I love it because its presence in a town or a city reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight."
  • "Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy." - This should go out to all city, county and state governments that even consider cutting library budgets!

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