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 Mabel, one of those Reading Activists.
Libraries are a place of freedom - a haven
The immensely renowned author, journalist, scriptwriter and comic writer, Neil Gaiman, made an eagerly anticipated visit to The Reading Agency's annual lecture, held at the Barbican Centre, London. The event attracted many people from all walks of life, and across many different organisations associated with the promotion of reading - authors, executives, ambassadors, youth volunteers and Reading Activists.
From the very moment Neil arrived, he was greeted warmly by all present and The Reading Agency staff. The night began with an insightful interview carried out by Olivia, Prince, Jerry, Syed and myself asking Gaiman more about his background, his writing career take-off and his possible future works. Those also amongst the questions were whether any characters he had created are based on himself and his own personality and the real story behind the title of his book, Coraline. I particularly asked him about his inspirations for writing and his comical appearance on an episode of the Simpsons, featuring none other than himself. He replied that his love for reading as child and his appearance on the Simpsons was a funny and enjoyable experience which involved reading a script in a single recording studio. After the interview, Neil Gaiman kindly signed autographs for all of us.
Neil Gaiman's lecture on the Library of the Future was super interesting, excellently and masterly written to encompass the pivotal reasons for why children should be encouraged to read (considering the UK's poor literacy rate), what reading can offer the word on an intellectual level and most importantly, I thought, the fact that no fiction book is 'bad' for children to read as all fiction books depict a different world, stirring imagination, empathy and excitement in the minds of child readers. I felt really both happy and privileged to hear such an outspoken and brave uplifting appraisal of fiction, as a keen reader of fiction books myself when I was a child.
The focus of this year's annual event being The Library of the Future left all guests at the event plenty to reflect on. What is my idea of a library of the future? What should our library in ten, fifteen or twenty five years contain? We received a wealth of funny yet creative thoughts and ideas to place on our ideas board during the drinks reception afterwards. All the comments were kindly shared on The Reading Agency Twitter and Facebook page accounts. A few examples are "knowledgeable and friendly librarians," "a stimulating quiet space," "a comfortable space with cushions and beanbags, cakes and coffee" and one comment simply stated - "books!" (Above, Reading Activist Mabel with the 'libraries of the future' suggestion board. Photo by Robin Mayes.)
On the whole, I had a great time at the event, and meeting Gaiman and listening to his amazing lecture was definitely my highlight. I am delighted that the work of the youth ambassadors and Reading Activists was so wonderfully recognised, commended and honoured and I hope that Neil Gaiman's message of enjoyable reading is really cogitated upon by the public but most crucially, the children and youth of today's world.
Read Reading Activist Olivia's article about the lecture.
Join the debate - tell us what you'd like to see in the library of the future via Twitter, Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.