Earlier this month Neil Gaiman (@NeilHimself) gave the second annual Reading Agency Lecture. For his topic he chose the importance of reading for pleasure and as part of that the importance of libraries. I sat listening to the lecture with a notebook handy to jot any words of wisdom down and came away with a handful of notes from half an hour. Suffice it to say after listening to him he has probably earned a place on my wall of wisdom next to the wonder that is Michael Rosen.
Gaiman is in tune with the world of reading, rightly so you would think for an author who has been plying his trade for over thirty years. Again and again the words reading for pleasure were echoed around the lecture hall of The Barbican – as a Librarian in a public library I feel the most important part of my job, my duty if you like is to promote reading for pleasure to all and especially to those children who I interact with. Therefore I felt an affinity with “my friend Neil “as he continued to expostulate on the importance of reading for pleasure – the need to escape and empathise and the lessons reading for pleasure can teach us about basic humanity and help us to develop our own opinions.
He spoke of libraries as magical places... drawing out the words inter library loan, like a small miracle when he first heard it from his local Librarian. He spoke of the evolving nature of libraries with passion and a sense of excitement, promoting libraries not just as book repositories but a place that can help people to find out, sort and collate the masses of information that we are now buried under on a daily basis. An interesting statistic that I managed to note down was from Eric Schmidt of Google; Every two days the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of time to 2003! That totally had my mind blown... the information glut we are now living through needs these professionals to help navigate for those who are not computer literate, in a world where life is increasingly led online libraries are a free, legal and open resource for all and are as Gaiman believes the “gates to the future”.
He finished off by speaking of the obligations we have as human beings... the easy ones; to read, to use language and to daydream. But there were also subtle calls to arms; to tell MPs what we want, to use and embrace language, to use reading for pleasure as time to bond with children and show them that reading for pleasure, irrelevant of format should be embraced and celebrated.
The last sparkle of wisdom I’ll leave you with is this.... “If you don’t value libraries you don’t value culture, information or wisdom”. Now I may be biased due to my profession but reading and creating a literate society should be the top priority of a nation. A literate nation is in my opinion an informed nation with a chance to build upon the wonders of the past with the promises of the future and libraries are essential to this end. I would quite happily show this lecture in schools and universities up and down the country, along with both houses of parliament.
So thank you Neil for standing up for reading and libraries and let me know next time you’re in town.
PS. If you want to watch the lecture just click the link at the top of the post and prepare to fall in love (only intellectually though.... don't get carried away!)