Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The future of reading

A couple of articles to juxtapose:

Firstly, The Reader Organisation, which aims to bring about a 'reading revolution' among people without access to great literature: those in hospitals, care homes, schools, community centres, prisons, hostels and so on.

The emphasis is on a shared reading experience. The groups will read from texts and then discuss points and issues raised by them. This is not a self-help or therapy group, however: it is simply a group which uses the power of reading as a way of generating discussion. And a very positive thing it sounds.

Secondly, a warning that because of local government cuts, imposed on them by central government, essential (and statutory) services like public libraries may not exist by 2020. With the ageing demographic in the country and the resultant increase in demand for adult social care, local government funding will reach breaking point.

This is not simply scaremongering. It will happen, sooner or later. Local government cutbacks are reaching frightening proportions and something has to give. We are seeing the inevitable dismantling of the public library system.

Does it matter? Yes it does. Nonetheless, it will happen, and we have to start planning for a post-libraries world. The idea of literature provided on the rates will one day seem quaint. Instead, we must rely on ideas like The Reader Organisation. Mobilise, readers and writers.


CempazĂșchitl said...

A world without public libraries and Borders, which was the main contact with literature for Americans outside big cities sounds like an awful future for reading

Tom Conoboy said...

I don't disagree with you about libraries, but I don't really accept that Borders are in the same category.

Borders and the major book chains have done nothing for reading or literature except dumb everything down to the lowest common denominator. It isn't possible to compare the approaches to stock management of the major book chains and public libraries. One is interested in short-term profit, the other in improving learning opportunities.

However, there is clearly a future for reading. We just have to accept it will be different. Ebooks have now overtaken traditional books in sales at Amazon. This is the way the world is moving. As long as this provides equitable access to reading and learning opportunities, I have no great problem with this.