Skip to Content

Libraries – Are They Essential or Irrelevant to Today’s Readers?

27 May 2002

Libraries - Are They Essential or Irrelevant to Today's Readers?

'It is, in fact, because the reading public has got larger, and more inclined to buy books, that the public libraries have declined. Which would you rather do? Pay a mere £6.99 for your own paperback copy of White Teeth, or be placed on a waiting list in order to read a slightly sticky plastic-coated copy of the book which has been sneezed over, or read on the lavatory, by 100 previous appreciative locals?

If you are a proper reader - that is, if you read at least one book each week - libraries are essential - Even if we could afford to buy all our books, we do not want to subsist on a diet of what the paperback publishers, in their wisdom, choose to keep in print. We have changed our reading, and book-buying habits. But the libraries can complement the paperback-shops rather than being their rivals, by keeping on the shelf titles which a modern commercial publisher would not dare to print.'

A N Wilson in the Guardian, contributing to the debate about the e future of libraries