The results of a survey jointly conducted by the National Year of Reading and the publisher HarperCollins show that a percentage of the British population regards reading as “irrelevant”; readers are thought to be “losers” or “at best loners” and characterised as “people who don’t know how to live”. The respondents did not feel they were losing out by not being readers; they considered that reading is not a profitable activity. The families in question tended not to have a reader among their number and if there was it would most often be a grandparent. People who would want their children to read well at school, would not encourage them to read at home. They think that reading is a solitary occupation while pursuits like playing Wii games are activities which can be shared with all the family. The survey showed that some of the respondents became very anxious if they went into a bookshop. The researchers recommended that bookshops and libraries must become more user-friendly and that books should be available from more outlets.
These survey results are difficult to square with reality. Bookshops seem to be lively friendly places with helpful staff and coffee shops where you can relax with friends and look at the books on sale.
Libraries are now places where you can eat, drink and use your mobile phones. Recent newspaper articles on the relaxation of rules in public libraries have deplored changes but since there are usually rooms in libraries for private study, the complaints about “dumbing down” seem misplaced.
Loughborough Public Library offers all kinds of services including DVDs, CDs, homework help for school students, storytelling for children and much more. The Library has comfortable chairs and a spacious interior so it is hard to see how anyone could be intimidated when they visit the building.
Books are available from many outlets now: many supermarkets sell books most of which are cheaper than those available from the major retailers. It could be that not enough retail outlets sell books: they could be sold from clothes shops – or cinemas where “the book of the film” could be displayed in the foyer.