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.
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 If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally.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.
Neil Gaiman has given the annual lecture at The Reading Agency. It is a rousing celebration of libraries, books and imagination.
I mostly want to point to it as an example of great writing. I don't have much to say about it other than this: My brother and sister-in-law are librarians. I think they have one of the most important jobs in the world. I think they are heroes. I talk a lot about creating more value than you capture, but I sincerely believe that they create more value in a day than I do in a month.
At the end of the lecture, Gaiman gives a list of obligations that we have to the future. Here's what he has to say about our obligation to support libraries.
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.