On 14 October young volunteers on our Reading Activists programme, Jerry, Mabel, Prince, Olivia and Syed, spent 20 minutes grilling Neil Gaiman before he delivered our annual lecture. The following is written by Prince Austine, one of the Reading Activists.
Meeting Neil Gaiman
On the 14th October 2013, at the Barbican Centre in London, before a crowd of authors, ambassadors, youth volunteers, Reading Agency members, sponsors and Reading Activists, Neil Gaiman gave the Reading Agency's second annual lecture.
It kicked off with Reading Activists Mabel, Olivia, Jerry, Syed and myself taking part in a twenty minute Q and A session with the famous novelist, graphic novelist and screenwriter Neil. We were given the opportunity to truly discover more about Neil's work, himself as a person and his future plans.
A few of our questions centred on his cameo in the Simpsons, news regarding possible adaptations of his works and even the origins of the name for his character Coraline. After the Q and A and receiving autographs, we had the lecture.
Fiction as a 'gateway drug'
Neil's lecture mostly revolved around the importance of reading for pleasure especially for young people and how 'well meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature.' Neil believes that this will only lead to 'a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant'.
Neil Gaiman spoke of fiction as being a 'gateway drug' to further reading and can very well lead a young person to 'discover that reading per se is pleasurable'. He went on to say that 'once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything'.
This tied in well with his view on the future of libraries, in sight of the recent closure of some. He stressed our 'obligation as readers, writers and citizens' to 'support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries,' and went on to say 'If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are cutting off the voices of the past and you are damaging the future'. Furthermore he said: 'If we mess it up and turn children away from reading and from books, we've lessened our own future and diminished theirs'.
More than just a place where books are stored
Neil's lecture defined a library as more than just a place where books are stored but a place for information in its various forms, from the free usage of internet, to books in the numerous formats, from paper to digital to audio, Neil also named librarians as people 'who can help you navigate that world.'
Thus, Neil made a plea for us 'to preserve and protect knowledge' as found in libraries. He also made a just comparison with how 'we have an obligation to clean up after ourselves and to not leave our children with a world we've short-sightedly messed up', similar to how we should value reading and the maintenance of libraries, something which if not ensured would lead to the world we would have also 'short-sightedly messed up'.
However this is constantly seeming to be an inevitability with (sad to say) many young people, who find reading to be a mundane past time when there are so many other things to be doing, this lack of reading for pleasure in turn causing a future without books.
As a reader, Neil Gaiman's lecture has really inspired and empowered me, and since I cannot imagine a world without either libraries or books, the prospects told by Neil during the lecture definitely looks grim for the future.
It was a great event as a whole, and I am really appreciative to have been able to attend the event, meet the people I did met and listen to Neil.
Read reports on the lecture by Reading Activists Olivia and Mabel.
Join the debate - tell us what you'd like to see in the library of the future via Twitter, Facebook or email email@example.com.
Read more about our annual lecture given by Neil Gaiman. You can also watch and read the full lecture.
Catch up with what people said about the lecture on social media via our #ReadingAgencyLecture storify.