Tuesday, February 1, 2011

That great democratic space

If you haven't read Philip Pullman's speech on his reaction to the proposed closure of 20 of the 43 Oxfordshire public libraries, you really must. His remarks on the idiocy of staffing libraries with volunteers and of having to "bid" for money for libraries are cutting and very, very apt.

And oh, how his words on his personal relationship with books and libraries resonate! Here's what he says about the reading experience:

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?

If anyone can convey it, Philip Pullman can.