Director of the National Library: 38 percent of adult reading does not correspond to our civilizational aspirations | Happen or occur

38 percent of adult reading does not correspond to our cultural aspirations. The director of the National Library, Dr. Thomas Makovsky, says we want more people to read for pleasure, catering to their own interests. He points out that the main reason for not reading is that a large part of society does not associate reading with puberty.

Polish News Agency: Recent research by the National Library shows that the level of reading in Poland has returned to a pre-pandemic level (38%). what does that mean? Can you be an optimist?

Dr. Thomas McCowsky: This is good and bad news. Well, because we have confirmation of a permanent halt to the downward trend, and this is in the period of popularity of big movie platforms that can effectively attract readers, especially novel readers. Thus reading stopped deteriorating, and the tools used to maintain its level in the National Program for the Development of Reading were well chosen. It is worth paying attention to the role of public libraries in maintaining readers – a decrease in the number of readers in the second year of the epidemic corresponds to a decrease in borrowing from public libraries. Libraries will be closed in 2020-2021 as a result of national regulations or a local increase in infections. This limited access to books for less frequent buyers and could have led to a lower level of readers. With libraries returning to standard performance, interest in the book is expected to increase. And that’s bad news because 38 percent. Adult reading does not correspond to our cultural aspirations. We want more people to read for pleasure, pursue their own interests and pursue their career aspirations. The development of the state and social well-being depends to a large extent on reading.

PAP: The slight increase in the number of registered readers in 2020 did not become the beginning of an upward trend …

Dr. Thomas McCowsky: You can see a big difference between the first and second years of the epidemic. Restrictions, especially homeschooling children and telecommuting, in the first year of the pandemic led to a slightly greater interest in reading. Due to the different organization of the day and the search for alternative activities, they caused significant fatigue in the second year, as a result of limited social contacts. Concomitant phenomena are stress associated with a long-term concern for the health of the individual and his relatives, possible losses in the economy subject to the restrictions of the epidemic, and now – the fear of war and anxiety resulting from tracking Russian aggression against Ukraine. Feeling safe is one of the primary factors that influence book reading and many forms of participation in culture. You may also see less willingness to be active, even like meeting family or friends at home or away, or deciding to go for a walk or take a little trip. In both autumn and spring, many Poles indicated their fatigue and the desire to go to bed early, as soon as they had free time to themselves.

When, a few years ago, in various expert teams we discussed the reasons for not reading and the forms of overcoming them, we jokingly considered the best, albeit extreme and unrealistic way, to prevent a decline in the number of readers, we found the motivation to read. Close the home community for a year. Unexpectedly, this scenario materialized during the COVID-19 pandemic. He achieved noticeable results in the first year, not the second.

Reading is an intimate activity, no one comes between us and the letters. But it’s also a social activity. Read where you see readers. We imitate the behavior of others. If we see someone reading on a bus, tram, or subway, we usually get to the book ourselves. Most of the events that promote reading and maintain interest in reading did not occur during the pandemic. At meetings with writers, literary outings and other reading events, the readers themselves can not only see each other, but also meet other readers. Today we see how important these forms of meetings are to continue reading. It is worth emphasizing the activities of non-governmental organizations and libraries that are financially supported by the National Center for Culture and the Book Institute from the funds of the National Development Plan and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. We must remember that reading is not a natural need, we are born illiterate. Someone should teach us to read, we need to read the first book that will delight or interest us enough that we want to get to the next, but also with age, changing expectations, needs, sensitivity and experience, will be able to find books that suit us. There is no ordinary reader. we are different.

PAP: Why exactly don’t Poles read books? Even in the early ’90s, we had over 70 percent. readers.

Dr. Thomas McCowsky: The main reason for not reading reading is because a large part of society does not associate reading with puberty. Reading can be learned mainly by example. If children do not see at least one adult reading in their environment, a parent, grandmother, grandfather, cousins, or friends at home, they will associate reading with school and stop reading when they are finished. Please remember that it is young people who are the most read, and the youngest, who have grown up before the age of the Internet. Most seniors who don’t read say they never read outside of school. Thus, they did not use books in the period when they were, in general, full of readers, i.e. before 1989. The short-term increase in the number of readers at the beginning of the nineties was caused by the wide opening of the publishing market, which led to the presentation of a large number of titles that were previously absent, Especially the attractive romance and crime novels translated from foreign languages. But the joy passed quickly. In taking reading as a punishment for much evil. Unfortunately, the threat to cut off the Internet, take the phone and lock the child in a room with a book voiced by the parents is common. The child should not associate reading with punishment.

PAP: And if we actually read, what publications do we use most often?

Dr. Thomas McCowsky: As in other countries – for folk and folk literature, that is, novels, romance stories, detective stories. In Poland, we read more religious literature than in other countries. Now we are noticing an increase in interest in Ukraine and Russia.

PAP: How has the pandemic affected our reading habits?

Dr. Thomas McCowsky: It has permanently influenced the increased use of Internet resources, including electronic books., which contains 3.5 million digital objects, was under siege. I hope library visits will be limited, and with the end of the epidemic, old readers will return to them, and new readers will discover how fun it is for the local library to spend their spare time and how friendly the librarian is. The public library is where you spend your free time, especially on Saturdays. Then the whole family can go to the library, borrow books for parents, grandparents and children, take part in reading activities or games. Also borrow books that grandparents can read to their grandchildren or great-grandchildren. It’s a good way to spend time together and build family relationships.

PAP: What have book sales in Poland looked like in the last 12 months? Were there new trends in this field?

Dr. Thomas McCowsky: A large part of the libraries were working normally. Online sales have grown significantly to become more convenient and secure. Another factor contributing to this growth is the increased use of digital services. In the event of a pandemic, this process accelerated and forced changes in the behavior of book buyers, while publishers, distributors and bookstores who had never before set up an online offering had to quickly develop and implement it or notice a drop in revenue. A separate trend is the greater sale of e-books individually and via bookstores.

Interviewed by Katarzyna Krzykowska (PAP)

Author: Katarzyna Krzykowska

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