Scott Turow's op-ed piece in the New York Times, which as far as I can tell was his chance to vent without offering up any solutions, even theoretical ones.
This is something else my high school librarian failed to inform me of - as a public librarian I cannot stop buying authors for public consumption just because they're asshats. So yeah, I'm still buying Mr. Turow's books "on the job" - all the while sticking pins in my little-suspense-writer-voodoo-doll that I now keep at my desk. Bother.
Maureen Sullivan, current president of the American Library Association, responded to Turow's screed in a succinct, eloquent manner which further illustrates why Wendy will never be president of anything. You should read her whole response, but the take-away from it really is this:
"Libraries want to buy your work at a reasonable price so that we may continue to grow readers — and writers — in the digital age"In one sentence Ms. Sullivan tells everybody what libraries do. We "grow readers." A functioning, and hopefully informed, society is a literate one. With no libraries, what do you think happens to literacy? We're already seeing some of this with children. Kids who go to school every day with no librarian in their public school. Information literacy? Who needs that? Teaching our children to reason, deduce, investigate, research? Who needs that? And now we have authors like Mr. Turow taking aim at public libraries when the sad fact is he should be embracing us.
Yeah, a library.
Guess what - we have shelves. We have actual display spaces. We talk to people, all kinds of people! We engage, we program, we hand-sell. We are not only breeding readers, we are sustaining them. We are not only keeping your audience alive, we are creating whole new audiences. Sure, that 16-year-old kid who is using the library to feed their reading habit isn't likely going to hit the bookstore every week to stock up on books. But you know what? What happens when that 16-year-old kid grows up? Gets a job? Gets a career? Gets some disposable income? Betcha they buy some books!
In the aftermath of all of this brain-bleed-inducing nonsense I've been struck by two things. One is the full-page ad that James Patterson recently took out in the New York Times Book Review. Like Turow, Patterson doesn't offer any answers - but he also doesn't do a lot of half-assed finger-pointing either. He asks a lot of questions. And he's smart enough to not look at libraries and see us as The Problem. (Probably because we aren't - but whatever). Mr. Patterson, I salute you! I promise not to make anymore jokes about Writing Sweat Shops for at least....a couple of days (seriously, I'm only human).
I was also reminded of something Kerrelyn Sparks said when she was the luncheon speaker at Librarians Day at RWA in Anaheim last year. Sparks was giving the librarians in attendance a little of her life story, which in a nutshell is Crappy Childhood followed by Crappy Marriage. Sparks also spent a decent chunk of this previous life (oh, like all of it) being strapped financially. She loved to read, and needed to read, in order to escape the crappiness of her daily life during those years. I'm paraphrasing wildly here, but in a nutshell?
"The people who need books the most are the ones who cannot afford them."
To level the playing field.
That's what libraries do. Librarians do not snatch food out of the mouths of authors and their children. Librarians do not look for ways to circumvent copyright, tear down authors, and send them careening into the nearest gutter. Librarians are here as partners. We're partners to readers, old and new alike, and to authors. We want to help you. We want you to succeed. It would be nice if the idiot authors wanted the same thing for us.
Wendy, Queen Librarian Of The Universe