There was a time when public libraries used to loan out only books and audio books but , over the last dozen years or so, this has changed. Nowadays, public libraries also rent out DVDs and loan out graphic novels. I have mixed feelings about the change.Libraries were created to spread knowledge and foster a love of reading. How exactly do DVDs and graphic novels advance these goals ?
In the case of DVDs, perhaps a case can be made that many of the titles are cinematic treatments of classic literature and novels that are required reading. There is also a goodly number of documentaries which offer a condensed , visual version of important topics in history and government. It may be that some youngsters who would not be bothered to read the book might at least watch the DVD. I am also not sure if the DVDs are considered a source of revenue for the library. The fees are very low, typically $ 1 / title, though the late fees are $ 2/ day.
In the case of graphic novels , it is harder to make a justification. Graphic novels, which we used to call comics in the good old days , do not have any literary value. They deal mostly with superheroes or horror and the supernatural and the plots are simplistic . I think that people who ‘ read’ graphic novels read them instead of books; graphic novels do not advance the cause of reading at all. That is a shame because many of today’s youngsters, those in the lower tracks at school, are very poor readers. Reading is the first step to writing and thinking and it is scary to see how ill -prepared our highschoolers are. At the top level , they are very very good but then there is a rapid drop off and those in the lower tracks can barely write a sentence without making an error. The better students are good readers and make extensive use of the libraries. The poor students , on the other hand, never read a book unless they have to.
I know that we are in the midst of a major change in the way knowledge and information is spread. Books , it is said , are on the way to becoming obsolete as we switch over to electronic dissemination of content. Even so, reading is a fundamental requisite for obtaining information whether from books or electronic media and I don’t think graphic novels help in any way.