I’m sitting in my favorite venue these days – the public library. My reasons are multiple – I love the fact that you can come here, bring your computer, book, etc and use their space free of charge. You don’t have to feel bad that you didn’t buy food or a cup of coffee, because they don’t sell them! It’s fully funded by the government and those unfortunate people who forget to bring their books back on time, so it’s completely free. I love the way the library serves the public by hosting events, especially those for kids, to encourage reading and learning.
But I’d say that at the core, it’s just that I feel smart here. I’m surrounded by the works of people who’ve put their time, effort, and intellect into the books, music, and art that are here. I feel encouraged and inspired – spurred on, really – to engage my own intellect.
When I was getting ready to graduate, I thought about how I was going to tackle my bookshelf and become the lifelong learner that college encourages you to be. The problem is that when you’re not in college anymore, there’s nobody constantly hounding you and giving you deadlines about things. Yes, I said that’s the problem.
Don’t get me wrong – there are driven people in life. I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: I want to learn, but I also need that encouragement and that spurring on. I need someone to hold me accountable for what I’m learning, or it won’t really sink in. That’s evident to me because of how I can read a book and miss all the details, so that when I tell someone what I’m reading and they ask what it’s about, I respond with a puzzled look and a “huh, I don’t really know.”
I’m glad I recognize this though, because I know how to remedy it. I learned well enough in the last year of college that I do well to dwell on information and repeat it over and over. That’s why I love math, for example – you have to keep doing it and keep doing it, you have to practice and keep yourself sharp. I was excellent at math in middle school and high school, but in a lot of cases, I couldn’t remember it now because I’m so out of practice.
That’s the value, I believe, of things in school like papers and book reports. Oh man, book reports! Do you remember those? Do you remember how pointless they felt? Well for people like me, they’re vital. If I don’t reflect on my book and actively consider what it’s talking about as I’m reading it, I’m prone to forget it when I close it for the last time. I need to reconsider everything I just read from book to book, chapter to chapter, and even page to page.
That said, I’m considering doing book report blogs in which I reinforce what I’ve learned in whatever book I’ve recently read. I’m finally getting in the habit of reading for enjoyment as well as for learning, and I want to have an avenue to discuss what I’ve learned. I’ll hopefully also be able to give a recommendation for books, and if any of my faithful readers (if such a thing exists) have read that book and want to discuss it, I’d be happy to.
This post is written with a nod to my spiritual mother, Anne Lawson, who is the single biggest champion of reading, learning, and libraries that I know. You inspire me. I love you.