After I read La Bella Lingua, I decided to make the Italian Renaissance one of my summer projects. I began by rereading (as I do every summer) Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

I promptly tracked down a number of books at my nearby library, including the amusing Uppity Women of the Renaissance by VIcki Leon, plus the DVD of the glorious PBS series The Medicis: Godfathers of the Renaissance.

Those aren’t the only library books living with me at the moment. I’m working on the next issue of Winning Ways newsletter which has a theme of Collecting for Fun and Profit. My exploration of the library catalog turned up a long list of resources. 

One of the most amusing is a heavy (and heavily illustrated)  book called In Flagrante Collecto (caught in the act of collecting) by Marilynn Gelman Karp. Then there’s Collectomania by Miriam Plans. Who knows where this is going to lead?

It’s no accident that I live less than five minutes away from a library. When I was moving to Las Vegas, I got a city map and plotted out the locations of things I wanted easy access to. Libraries were high on the list.

In a talk I gave at a library in Minneapolis, I told the audience, “Libraries are an entrepreneur’s best friend.” I wasn’t just flattering my hosts, however.

A great library system is a basic requirement for me. In a normal week, I make several visits to the library and consider having a personal relationship with the librarians to be fundamental.

Some people go shopping when they need a lift; I go to the library. If I’m stumped, don’t know what to do next, I can count on a visit to get me moving again.

The library exists to connect us with information and ideas all stored in one space for our convenience. While the Internet is a fabulous tool, one I would hate to give up, I can go deeper into a subject at the library—and I trust the accuracy of the information more.

When I see parents bringing their small children to get their first library card, I am delighted. This is an important rite of passage and the sooner the library becomes a familiar friend, the more apt it is to remain a lifetime relationship.

I also love the sense of not knowing for sure what I’ll find when I go there. Richard Wiseman tells a story about going to the library to do research for a paper he was writing when he was a schoolboy and being directed to the wrong shelf where the books on magic happened to be housed. That started him on his way to becoming a boy magician.

A fellow library lover told me about the morning she arrived at the library as it opened. She planned to spend some time doing genealogical research. “The next thing I knew,” she recalls, “they were announcing that the library was closing. I hadn’t eaten or gone to the bathroom all day.”

Can you imagine what a thrill it was for a lifelong library lover when a woman came to my seminar in Washington DC saying she was there because she worked at the Library of Congress and had come across Making a Living Without a Job  on their shelves?

“There is an unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student,” said Oliver Goldsmith. That’s also true for the curious entrepreneur.

Whether you’re a regular library patron or not, plan a creative excursion to your library soon and browse until you discover a treasure. Or visit the reference department and see what ideas you get looking through directories of grants or Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations. 

Then do it again and again. And anytime you find yourself thinking, “But I don’t know how to do that,” take yourself to the library and start digging.


12 Responses to “A Friend to Entrepreneurs”

  1. The Conscious Life

    I share your love for libraries too, Barbara! I can never get enough of it once I stepped into one. And I’m very fortunate that the nearest library is only 15 minutes away by foot. To book lovers, a library is like a treasure island full of gems waiting to be discovered. It’s literally an inspiration paradise. Thanks for highlighting a free resource that is sometimes forgotten.

  2. Sandra Lee Schubert

    My fondest memories are the warm summer days at the local library. I would read through my required list and then the list of my sister. She is five years older, so my reading became quite advanced.

    As an adult, I used to live behind the public library. It was my favorite place to go. Unlike a bookstore, when I spy a book that intrigues me I can take it home. If I love, love, love a book I will consider buying it.

    I moved a couple of times and lost the library connection but I moved back near the newly renovated library where I happily spent my days. The missing years had the library become so easy to maneuverer. No longer did I have to wait on long lines to check out my books I just place them on a screen with my card, a couple of clicks on computer screen, and I am gone. Then if I am really lazy or its late at night I can go online and reserve a book that can be delivered from any library in the system directly to my local library. Technology has only improved the whole experience.

    Barbara, my bookshelf is full because of your recommendations. When you like a book I always like it too. Someone in my apartment building has been leaving books in strange places. So far I picked up a book on Slang American Style and a couple of fiction books.

  3. Sandy Dempsey

    I remember spending so much time at the library as a kid that I was granted special privileges, like going upstairs to the archives. It was really a storage room with old books and newspapers, some decades old. It was an adventure. Even as I kid I’d explore every shelf in the library, finding and reading books that were way over my head but loving every minute of it. I’d forgotten what fun it was to explore. Thanks for the memories!

  4. Barbara

    I think the library is also such a great example of mixing new technology with old reliable information sources. I check my library account online all the time to see which books I’ve requested have arrived, which are in transit, which ones have hundreds ahead of me in line. And we now have the same speedy checkout so I can dash in and out in about 3 minutes, but lingering is also lovely and feeds the soul.

    And I, too, often find myself reading a library book and deciding it belongs in my own library so I buy it to add to my collection.

  5. Rasheed Hooda

    I also have fond childhood memories of the library. I was made the honorary librarian at my community center when I was 12 or 13, which meant I had the key to the library and I can go in anytime I want and read or work on re-shelving the books. The library was officially opened after the evening prayers, around sunset, till 10 PM. But I, I can go in anytime and read all I want to.

    When my kids were growing up, they used to say, if you wanna make papa happy, bring him a book. Fortunately, they both share the love of the library, specially my son, whom you can never find without a library book in tow, regardless of where you’re going. I think it is more than a co-incident that he will more likely than not graduate as the Valedictorian for his class.


  6. Barbara Winter

    Oh, Rasheed, I can just see you all alone in the library and loving it! And I think that the best way to raise kids who are readers is to have them see their parents engrossed in good books as a regular activity.

  7. Michael Temple

    I LOVE books and the library. In the infamous words of Benjamin Franklin…

    “Reading is one of life’s great amusements”

    I take my daughter to the library all the time to get books, it is one of our fun times together. I hope as she grows older she will share the same passion for books and reading that I do.

  8. Della

    And the Bookmobile!!

    When I was a kid the Bookmobile came to our neighborhood once a week or maybe two. A big converted bus with shelves floor to ceiling, its stock was rotated so new things were there to be browsed. A narrow aisle from front to back made it seem as though you walked in a tunnel of books. We could also make requests and then wait to see if they had been found by the next visit.

    I really came as a big surprise to me when I discovered that good libraries and library systems didn’t just exist everywhere! You can be sure that my next home base will have one 🙂

  9. Barbara Winter

    Oh, you scanners have such good problems! Thanks, also, for the link. Can’t wait to see the interview. I did an article a while back called Why Self-help Doesn’t Help. Eager to see what Wiseman has to say about such things.

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