Last week I was able to attend Library Advocacy Day at the State Capitol building in Lincoln. This event is sponsored by the Nebraska Library Association and is an opportunity for library staff from across the state to meet with their representatives and share information to highlight our dedication to libraries and to our communities.
Our representative is Senator Lynne Walz from Fremont and we had the opportunity to talk with her staff and had lunch with Lynne. During the luncheon, we were entertained by a great speaker who talked about the importance of libraries and how they are changing to suit the needs of the communities. The speech did a fantastic job explaining what it is we do in libraries, and why libraries are essential to our communities.
This speech from last week has carried over to so many engagements and speaking opportunities for me. I have been speaking to various organizations and individuals about the work we do here at Keene Memorial Library. I love sharing details about our work and talking to folks about how we influence the lives of our patrons. I came across an article by author Neil Gaiman (2013) that really emphasizes how important libraries are to the community.
Gaiman is an award winning English author and his article was probably the best defense of public libraries I have ever read. In the article, he talks about how prison industries are able to predict the number of prisoners using a mathematical algorithm based on asking what percentage of 10-11 year old boys are illiterate. This surprised and saddened me at the same time. First, why are there 10-11 year old boys that can’t read in a first-world country? Second, if they know this, why are we not fixing the problem to reduce the number of inmates in our country?
Gaiman goes on in the article to talk about our children needing to get on the “Reading Ladder.” He explains that reading anything is better than not reading at all, so let kids read what they want and not mandate certain levels or books. Just getting a kid to read is a huge obstacle so when they find something they like, let them read. Gaiman spoke about reading fiction books and how reading fiction can: 1) be a gateway drug to reading and 2) build empathy in people. Some people look down on fiction reading as leisure or entertainment, but in reality, fiction reading has positive effects.
The article is long and I suggest reading it (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming), but I will leave you with this quote, “Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, and freedom of communication. They are about education, about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.”
If you were not aware of any of these facts about libraries, stop by and talk with us.