Making a pact with the devil

This one’s a late evening rant. You have been warned.

Because it doesn’t matter how many morons who think that librarians are too stuffy to design a library are recruited at huge expense to install a set of beanbags, a coffee machine and the complete works of Jacqueline Wilson in a stockroom and call it the Coolest Room in the School.

I met one of my old lecturers from my libraries MA the other day, and in discussing eBooks we reached the conclusion that actually it’s never good to get too passionate about either traditional print books or eBooks.

Printed books are (like it or not) for the most part disposable. The vast majority outside of collectible items are mass produced media with a limited lifespan – novels, textbooks, encyclopaedias – all of these I’ve thrown into the black bag of doom in my job, to the horror of teachers. We actually have an official policy of secrecy when it comes to disposing of books, simply because the reaction of certain (ignorant) people (read 95% of the population) when faced with a library THROWING OUT BOOKS would be too horrible to contemplate.

Librarians, throwing out books?! Fire them all! Replace them with volunteers who will show books true respect! B******s. Once the content is irrelevant or the paper is falling to shreds, the incinerator is the only way to go.

But it’s not the books we’re really interested in, it’s the words inside them. It’s getting the people to read them. The saddest thing I heard this week was that Soma books, a wonderful supplier of the more offbeat and hard to otherwise acquire multicultural books, will be no more from next year due customers turning away. It’s schools market had dried up as so few maintain a working library and only a few libraries were remaining but this was not enough to balance the books.

Now it doesn’t matter whether these books were written in ink, pixels, or magic faerie dust sprinkled onto slabs of silver, what matters is that less people will now read them.

It doesn’t matter how much money the Evening Standard throws at a school run by a head too stupid to employ a librarian to run a decent library.

It doesn’t matter how many reading volunteers descend onto the inner city from their ivory towers.

It doesn’t matter how many morons who think that librarians are too stuffy to design a library are recruited at ridiculous cost to install a set of beanbags, a coffee machine and the works of Jacqueline Wilson in a stockroom and call it the Coolest Room in the School.

What matters is that once people are fed up with consuming trash (and junk food is lovely for a while), they may just (good God!) want to move onto the book that’s the equivalent of a big juicy steak, cooked just over rare but with lovely bloody juices still running out of it, with a nice salad, big fuck-off chips, or a jacket potato and peppercorn sauce, or perhaps sour cream and chives on the side. The sort of thing that means more to life than a Dan Brown thriller or Jordan’s ghost-written drivel or the latest edition of the Twiglet saga – the literary equivalent of a manky cheeseburger on a 99p discount.

Trouble is, when the likes of Soma are gone, when all the Schools Library Services have closed, when librarians have been replaced by a stock selection standing order, then for most people books and literature will be like a bad day in Asda or MacDonalds. Hardly any choice and what’s left is a bit shit.

Anyway, back to eBooks, as I said above, it’s not the format that matters it’s whether the content means something to the reader. A good book will either be a window onto a new world or a mirror onto their own – no matter what this world is. For this to be possible you need people who not only care about books but who have the time and expertise to identify them, find them, and bring them to the reader who cannot do this for themselves.

To help inspire the reader to read. To help guide them through the maze of information out there.

edited for excessive swearing