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.