So Many Computers in Libraries…Was a Mistake

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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.”

Sigh. 

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? 

One thought on “So Many Computers in Libraries…Was a Mistake

  1. Okay, not wishing to be rude about the woman — but from what I’ve read of her, she doesn’t have a lot of … well, she’s kind of happily Luddite. She went on about Twitter, too, and that’s not something which really relates to children’s books as such (except for the odd Twitter/text novel) — and she’s vocal about ebooks not being great for children/children’s literature. — My point is, I think she prefers to operate from the older model of what a library meant to a community – well dressed, quiet children responding to the stern shushings of the librarian, sitting silently and reading like little ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she understands libraries as a center of community and culture. In the UK that place is take by the pub — in the U.S., libraries are vital as something the whole family and community can enjoy for all that it does for them — including reading.

    So, yeah. She has a lot to say, and I wish her well in her work, but I think she needs, as laureate, to do a lot more listening before she does much more talking, so she can identify the needs of libraries, and be able to advocate for meeting the needs of the whole child and their community…

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