Neil Gaiman Envisions a Future With Libraries

The wild and wacky world of the RFID gates gets ever stranger.

The short version is that a technician will be in today to attempt to finish the work last week’s technician began. The gates have some tracking ability but still do not alarm when a book passes through them. This after the new part we received was installed and the gear tested remotely by one of their better developers.

The long version is that I got one of the vendor’s troubleshooters to remotely log in to the gate reader. There is a possibility the gates need to be replaced. There is a possibility that our gate management software needs to be replaced. It is definite that a number of applications we’ve been running are no longer supported by the vendor. (The CircControl app we’ve been using is among these. Nice of them to tell us, huh?)

I’ve set up an appointment for them to log in with the developer that we’ve been regularly communicating with on problems concerning the gates, and they will do a complete test of everything we have installed.

There are days when I question why I bother to come to work.

In the meantime, this wonderful essay by Neil Gaiman on the future of libraries has been making the rounds of my social media networks. It deserves your full attention. Especially this bit:

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.

It’s not one to one: you can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.

Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. I’ve seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.

His response: Bah! There are no bad books, there is nothing below one’s reading level, and there is no book that cannot be taught as an act of literary statement.

Read fiction. Read it all. Enjoy every moment. Encourage others to do that same.

On the days I wonder why I bother, this is why I keep showing up.

Read the whole thing here.

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