Libraries, reading, and daydreaming

ocean_lanePerhaps you have read something by Neil Gaiman. It may have been a children’s book (Chu’s Day; Fortunately, The Milk) or a collection of stories (Fragile Things); it may have been a young adult novel (Coraline; The Graveyard Book) or an adult fantasy novel (American Gods; Neverwhere; The Ocean at the End of the Lane); it may have been a graphic novel (Sandman) or a movie (Stardust) or even an episode of Doctor Who.

Gaiman is a prolific writer across many genres, for many audiences. He is also a tremendous advocate for libraries. Recently, he gave a lecture for The Reading Agency (“because everything changes when we read”) that was reproduced in The GuardianIt would be far too difficult to choose just one passage to quote, so I encourage you to read the whole piece.

coralineGaiman’s core message is that children ought to be allowed and encouraged to read what they want (“I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children”). Fiction, Gaiman said, does two things. First, it is “a gateway drug to reading,” and literacy is essential in today’s world. Second, fiction builds empathy, and empathy is “a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.”

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re most likely a supporter of and believer in libraries and reading already. But if you’ve ever been caught off guard when a defense of libraries is necessary (“Aren’t libraries obsolete? Isn’t everything on the Internet now?”), Gaiman’s lecture provides an excellent case for literacy and libraries. Read it here.

“We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.”

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