Have you ever read something that speaks to you so profoundly that it is like someone found a perfect transcription of your feelings and put it somewhere convenient for you to read? That is what just happened to me about an hour ago when I came across Neil Gaiman’s recent address at The Reading Agency’s annual lecture series in London.
It isn’t often that I am glad to have put off my homework, but this is absolutely one of those times. If I had posted my blog entry on time this week, I would probably have gone much longer before reading these words and my life would have been that much worse for it. This week we are asking ourselves, why libraries? Why are they important? What do they do? As a shiny new library student, I have been having a hard time articulating my answers to these questions and now I’m having a similarly hard time expressing why Neil Gaiman’s words hit the nail on the head for me. That’s probably what makes him such a total ninja of expression. So I’ll let his words do the work, because they’re better than mine will ever be.
Here are some of my favorite parts:
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
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They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read…They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more…
* * *
Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is.
* * *
A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world. It’s a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.
I could transcribe the whole article, but that would be wrong. Read the transcribed, edited lecture here — Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.
You can also read The Reading Agency’s account of the event.
It’s a lot, but it is worth the read. I hope there is a video of this address somewhere because the only thing better than Neil Gaiman’s writing is Neil Gaiman reading his own writing. If I find it, I will post it. For now, I leave you with a picture of the man himself: