Learn Something New This Week

VirginiaPublicLibrary

My own local public library

It’s Back to School time for the kids and the college students of whatever age.

In a way, I’m glad I finished my degree and don’t have to worry about getting ready for another quarter. In another way, I miss the new learning and the sparking of ideas from that learning that would excite me about whatever I was studying.

You don’t need to be in school or enrolled in any course to be a student of something you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be academic–it can be a hobby or a fascination with something in particular, say gardening, woodworking, playing an instrument, or whatever absorbs your interest.

Studies have shown that curiosity and a desire to learn new things go a long way toward strengthening your memory and cognitive functions. It is said that people who read more, watch educational television or videos, or spend time on a hobby maintain higher brain function into their 80’s and 90’s.

(I do have references on this stuff, just not handy right now. I eventually hope to have them available in some form down the road.)

All you need for exercising your mind is a public library. Free media everywhere on anything you ever wanted to know about. Books, videos, recordings, newspapers, magazines plus digital formats of paper media.

It’s the best of both worlds: free information on nearly anything and everything, in paper and/or digital formats, for people with or without computers.

I’ve been a library bookworm since childhood. But, during my recent studies, I got used to getting books on Kindle, and using downloaded e-books instead of ordering $300 textbooks or $18.00 paperback novels (that’s ridiculous!). We could also download research material to print if we wanted to but I like saving the forests.

Because of that, I hadn’t been to my library in years. I do pick up a lot of books and videos from garage sales but that’s different: you’re not seeking out a specific topic, you’re picking up books that interest you that just happen to be there.

You walk into a library and pick a section related to your interest and BAM–suddenly you don’t know where to start. Me, I always go for the “beginners’ guide to…” or “an introduction to…” if I’m learning something new.

If it’s something I’ve been learning about and want to know more, I’ll look for “techniques in…” or “the (practioner’s) guide to…(interest)”. These would be like the ‘watercolor painter’s guide to flowers’ or ‘the gardener’s guide to organic vegetables’. You already know about gardening but now want to learn to do it organically.

My particular favorites for exploring either new or familiar topics  are the For Dummies and the Everything (Topic) series. There’s almost nothing that hasn’t been covered by someone in any line of work. Many of those authors are university professors or professionals in that area so you know you’re getting good, solid  information–for the most part.

I have read some that confused me because the author of a “‘beginner’s guide” assumed the reader already knew a lot about the topic. If they assume that then why are they writing a “beginner’s guide”? Something I’ve often wondered.

Many authors of these series update their work every year, especially if the subject is one that changes frequently, like the Internet, economics, or social media. Others are timeless, like arts n’ crafts instruction using techniques that haven’t changed for centuries such as fiber arts, preserving, or wood-working.

Your library’s how-to video section is a good place to go too. I find it easier to watch something done than to read how its done. Some of the For Dummies books are also on video, which is very helpful for visual instruction like fitness workouts, Yoga or using the Internet.

If you already do use the Internet regularly, you can find literally zillions of free how-to videos from YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media sites as well.

Libraries also make use of the Internet to assist people. They offer access to all sorts of online information databases, can help locate media and get it from other libraries, and provide you with your own library ‘home page’ where you can keep your lists of things to look for and manage your loans, returns, and holds.

Now–what’s really cool about libraries: if you don’t own a computer, you can get time at your public library, and if you need to, you can have someone walk you through learning how to find stuff.

No matter your age or learning style, there are many ways for you to learn about something you’ve been interested in–or something entirely new–for FREE at your nearest public library.

So, in honor of Back to School Week, get out there and learn something new.