The new Children’s Laureate in the UK, Julia Donaldson, has expressed concerns about the number of computers in public libraries.
“I thought it was a shame when so many computers were brought into libraries – adults using them for playing card games, teenagers looking at [questionable] websites, I thought that was a mistake,” she told The Herald.
“At the time [as computers were being installed] I said we needed to have more children’s writing specialists.
“I might get into hot water by saying this, but I would love to see more [investment] going into stocking children’s titles, even at the expense of adult sections. But part of my job is to create a stink.”
I do hope that eventually people understand that libraries are about far more than books. Yes, books are important, vital to our world and communities, but to disparage the offering of computers by public libraries is not helpful. We get people into our libraries because we offer computers, because we offer open access to information whatever format it may appear in. We are working hard to get digital books into libraries in a way our patrons will respond to. In this day to equate books with reading and computers with playing games is simply wrong.
I also sigh over her willingness to improve children’s collections in libraries at the expense of adult collections. While that may be her focus as Children’s Laureate, I think it’s another naïve and damaging statement to make about libraries. Libraries definitely focus on children’s services. Right now, I am typing this down the hall from a children’s performer singing lively songs to an enormous group of preschoolers. I see the need for strong children’s collections, and deep knowledge of reading and books among library staff, but let’s not pit adult reading vs. children’s reading. Both are great!
So that’s my opinion as a public library administrator. What about you? Do you think there are too many computers in libraries? Should we be funding children’s collections at the expense of adult?