Aug 26, 2013

Cory Doctorow on Libraries and E-Books

I watched this video the other day when I needed some cheering up, and it was so effective that I thought I’d share it with the rest of you. As per usual, Cory Doctorow is sensible in ways that should be obvious but that are often left out of the debate entirely. Also, I absolutely love what he says about how librarians are the people who will hand-sell a book to a kid who’ll grow up to be part of the 20% who read 80% of books; and furthermore, they’ll do so with no ulterior motives.

This got me thinking of what Angie has been saying for years about how libraries can do more than try to appeal to reluctant readers. Much like Angie, I do love the fact that reading development librarians work to show people who have not so far had much of an interest in reading that books do have something to offer to them — but that’s not the only work they do. There’s just as much value in working with that 20% and helping them discover the next book that will change their lives.

I’ve not had much of an occasion to talk about this on the blog yet, but over the past few months I’ve been running a reading group for pre-teens, and the ones who keep coming back are anything but reluctant readers. But because there’s so young there’s a lot they don’t yet know, so I get to be the person who first puts a Terry Pratchett or Diana Wynne Jones novel in their hands. I can’t tell you how much the thought that one day they might remember me as that makes me smile.


  1. Somehow Terry Pratchett inspires that sort of behavior. One day not long ago when I was volunteering at a Friends of the Library sale, some guy was going around grabbing up all the Terry Pratchett books so I was helping him, and I asked if he had just discovered him or what, and he said no, he was an old fan, but he loved him so much he always tried to find his books to give to OTHERS! And no, he was not a librarian, but a librarian at heart! :--) (And I should add that certain bloggers keep trying to get ME to read Terry Pratchett, but I keep resisting for reasons unknown even to myself...)

  2. Jill, I've made it my personal goal to get you to overcome that resistance! And I know Aarti would back me up here - come on, don't you trust us? :P And of course librarians are not the only people who do that - bloggers are another great example of passionate everyday reading advocacy, as are plenty of other readers :D

  3. I haven't had a chance to watch the video, yet, but this post itself put a big smile on my face!

  4. How cool to be the person who puts those books in someone's hands! How totally totally cool, and lucky them to have you around to recommend all the good books. I still remember the librarian who came to my eighth-grade class and talked to us about Ender's Game. Even though obv I do not have the same degree of unclouded admiration for Orson Scott Card that I did when I was fourteen, I still feel grateful to that librarian for making me realize I could be into science fiction (or, like, other genres or types of books that I didn't immediately think I'd be into).

  5. Oh yes, there's always that temptation to focus on the kids who hate reading because how could anyone hate reading?! They just need the right book... but the kids who love reading, who quietly come into the library every week and take out an armful, and get excited when you've kept something aside for them because you know they'll love it... those kids really make my days.

    (ps. your reading group for preteens? can we talk? what are you reading with your group, how often do you meet? i have one too, having trouble actually getting them to read except in very specific cases... maybe send me email... first name including all the i's at

  6. It warms the cockles of one's heart, it does. :)

  7. As a new bookseller, I admit that I do have some ulterior motives, but there is something just as satisfying managing to finally pick out a book for a very picky customer.

    Some people don't like to read and that is okay. The people who do love to do it are awesome at it.

    Your reading group sounds amazing! I wish I had an Ana when I was a wee lass to introduce me to all the good stuff.

  8. 'There’s just as much value in working with that 20% and helping them discover the next book that will change their lives.' - yeah see this is what I wish I'd had, a librarian who said 'Hey you read a lot, maybe you'd also like...'. Maybe I wouldn't have read quite so much SVU then :P I get a little wistful when other people tell their 'the best librarian ever' stories because I was a quiet bookworm and people mostly let me get on with discovering things myself. So I love seeing people like you and leila and Angie talking about working with kids who love reading :)

  9. Jenny: I hope they feel that way too! I saw one of them at the library this week and he came up to me excitedly to tell me about Fly By Night. It kind of made my whole week :D

    Kiirstin: E-mail sent! Really looking forward to hearing about your experience.

    Tasha: Yep :D

    Clare: You're a bookseller! How did I not know this? Any chance of a post about your book-selling adventures one of these days?

    Bookgazing: Yeah, I completely missed out on that when I was growing up as well. Fingers crossed that I'll be able to make at least a little bit of a difference.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.