Neil Gaiman and the Relevance of Libraries

April 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm 1 comment

Sandman ALA posterNeil Gaiman, honorary chair of the 2010 ALA National Library Week and award-winning author of the graphic novel series The Sandman and the Newberry Medal-winning YA novel The Graveyard Book (among many, many other things), speaks to The Book Case this week on the relevance of libraries:

For most of the human race, pretty much all of the lifespan of the human race, information was currency. Information was like gold. It was rare, it was hard to find, it was expensive. You could get your information, but you had to know where to go, you had to know what you were looking at, you had to know how to find your information. It was hard. And librarians were the key players in the battle for information, because they could go and get and bring back this golden nugget for you, the thing that you needed.

Over the last decade, which is less than a blink of an eye in the history of the human race, it’s all changed. And we’ve gone from a world in which there is too little information, in which information is scarce, to a world in which there is too much information, and most of it is untrue or irrelevant. You know, the world of the Internet is the world of information that is not actually so. It’s a world of information that just isn’t actually true, or if it is true, it’s not what you needed, or it doesn’t actually apply like that, or whatever. And you suddenly move into a world in which librarians fulfill this completely different function.

We’ve gone from looking at a desert, in which a librarian had to walk into the desert for you and come back with a lump of gold, to a forest, to this huge jungle in which what you want is one apple. And at that point, the librarian can walk into the jungle and come back with the apple. So I think from that point of view, the time of librarians, and the time of libraries—they definitely haven’t gone anywhere.

In other ways, we’re in a time of economic difficulty. Libraries are the best place to go to start getting information. They’re the place where most Americans who do not have Internet access go to get Internet access. And we’re in a world now in which jobs are applied for online, jobs are advertised online. You need to be able to know which social services to connect to, you need to know how to retrain, you need information, and all of that information—the focal point for it is your library. So from my perspective, libraries are as important as they have ever been, and they may be more important than they have ever been.

The rest of the interview, which is fascinating and covers Gaiman’s love of libraries from the time he was young, can be read at BookPage’s blog The Book Case.

In addition, you can listen to a similarly themed interview conducted by Minnesota Public Radio.


Entry filed under: Public Libraries, Recreational Reading.

Know Your eResources Online Quiz (Library Week 2010) – Day 5 (Humanities) World Book Day 2010

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Lin Yulong  |  May 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I very much agree on Neil Gaiman’s opinion on the relevance of libraries. Now, we live in a world where there is too much information, and it is easily accessible with one click of a mouse. However, there is too much information out there that are irrelevant or false, just not what we are seeking for. Therefore, this is where libraries come in. libraries provide us with loads of information, and all of them are categorised orderly such that it is easy to find them, however, in this case, the information held within the library are trusted and thus so are mostly reliable. Therefore, library are much more relevant now that it is one of the only places with reliable sources of information.


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