I came across this speech (via The CCBC’s Twitter feed) that Philip Pullman gave in support of libraries in Oxfordshire (where they are being closed in great numbers). Apparently the speech is making the internet rounds, and I am glad. Pullman is, besides the author of one of my favorite book series His Dark Materials, a very wise and just man — his essays are always drawn from ideas of humanism and rationalism, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking about things that were sort of slipping past me in the speed of the day-to-day.
Anyway: among his wise words in this speech about libraries, and the detrimental effects of our economic system, is the following passage about reading, which I think just captures it perfectly:
And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?