About a fortnight ago, author Neil Gaiman gave a lecture about the importance of reading and libraries in both the individual and common good. It’s lengthy, but well worth a read (or five!). In particular, Gaiman highlights the importance of libraries as homes of not just books, but information that can be accessed freely by anyone at anytime. While we may take this for granted, it’s really an unprecedented idea. It wasn’t that long ago that information was only for the privileged, and was purposefully used to create a divide between the haves and have-nots. It still happens. Today in the US we not only have wide-spread access, but are producing more information than ever before. And libraries are the place where the most people can access what they need, find the tools to do so, and interact with others in a common space to discern and discuss what they find.
In New York City, we have three of the largest and most intricate library systems in the world serving all five boroughs, seven days a week. Classes and seminars are offered on computer skills, job training, and rare materials that we are privileged to see simply because we live here. Each branch holds regular community events like book clubs, movie nights, children’s story hours, and teen spaces for after school. And of course, you can always go to the library to check out the next book you want to read.
As Christians, we should be celebrating and embracing our local libraries. They provide a sense of community and education that positively impact and renew our neighborhoods. When change comes to an area, it is often the library that is involved from the beginning, providing space, resources, and information to those committed to improving their community. And once it is all over, the library is the place that preserves the history of the moment, allowing future generations to educate and remember what we have done and how far we have come. Plus, it’s a great place to score the new Tim Keller book for free.
Neil Gaiman wants you to make good use of your local library. And so do I.