PDF Friends With Benefits: How to Change the World With a Handful of Letters

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They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help.

They treated me as another reader — nothing less or more — which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old. But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university , about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

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I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally. I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value.

For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle.

We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need. Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before — books of all kinds: But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: Librarians can help these people navigate that world.


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I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.

Napoleon I of France

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now. Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information.

We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood. Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today.

They are closing the gates that should be open. Or to put it another way, our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are.

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They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce. Books are the way that we communicate with the dead.

The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told. I think we have responsibilities to the future.

Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us — as readers, as writers, as citizens — have obligations. I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing. We have an obligation to support libraries.

To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future. We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves.

Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside. We have an obligation to use the language. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.

We writers — and especially writers for children, but all writers — have an obligation to our readers: Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.

We see an opportunity and we want to make the most of it.

We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. We all — adults and children, writers and readers — have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine.

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: They will have unprecedented opportunities to get an education, eat nutritious food, and benefit from mobile banking. It's great that more people in rich countries will be able to watch movies on super hi-resolution screens.

It's even better that more parents in poor countries will know their children aren't going to die. It is fair to ask whether the progress we're predicting will be stifled by climate change. The next 15 years are a pivotal time when these energy sources need to be developed so they'll be ready to deploy before the effects of climate change become severe. Bill is investing time in this work personally not through our foundation and will continue to speak out about it.

We're excited to see how much better the world will be in 15 years.

Our Big Bet

Here are some of the breakthroughs we see coming. Our Big Bet The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. We see an opportunity and we want to make the most of it. When we travel, we meet with people to learn what they need to live a healthy, productive life.

A Call for Global Citizens The more active global citizens there are the more progress the world will make Sign Up Now We can make fighting poverty a priority. Health Child deaths will go down, and more diseases will be wiped out Read Now Two: Farming Africa will be able to feed itself Read Now Three: