Guest post contributed by Oleg Kagan
Let me tell you something I find very disappointing: Not enough men use libraries.
I can tell you’re already coming up with excuses why: “I buy my books” or “Everything is on the internet.” Don’t worry, I’ve heard them all. They come from people whose idea of libraries is woefully out-of-date.
But I’m not here to insult your intelligence. As a librarian, I know better than anybody how men can benefit from the power of the library, and what I want to do is to share that with you. I’m going to do that by giving you five pro tips that will start you on levelling up your charisma, financial stability, and self-knowledge — qualities that every man could use more-of in spades, all with the help of America’s most trusted 150-year-old institution. Here we go:
1) The Library Can Make You More Interesting: You’ve seen those beer commercials with the most interesting man in the world, right? Like every renaissance man, he can talk to anybody on any topic. He got that way by going to the library — a place of ultimate variety. Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars buying all sorts of books and documentaries or you can browse all you want at the library (or online, since most libraries offer streaming music, movies, and ebooks) for free. Just do what I do: Walk in and peruse the stacks, if some tome jumps out at you, grab it and dive in. You don’t have to read the whole thing, just read what’s interesting; the world is your oyster! Don’t be one of those guys who can only talk about that one thing they’re interested in (especially if it’s politics), go to the library and become fascinating. And while you’re at it, check out a guitar, hiking kit, or an animal head for your man cave.
2) The Library Adds Bustle to Your Side-Hustle: What’s the most important thing a business can have? That’s right, customers! And the library can deliver that with a little effort from you. Market research using databases like ReferenceUSA and AtoZDatabases, among other top-notch resources, give you intelligence about both your customers and competition. You can quickly put together a lists of leads filtered by dozens of variables — whether you want to use that for cold calls, Facebook ads, or direct mail is up to you. Just don’t tell me you don’t know where to find future customers. Maybe you need a place to pitch your services or wares, maybe a location to showcase your goods? Renting a library meeting room is simple, and the central location makes it easy for attendees to find. Better yet, do something in partnership with the library; that let’s you take advantage of the library’s uber trust factor (more on partnering with the library below). Not sure how to get going with market research, advertising, SEO, etc.? No problem. The librarians, hundreds of business books, and small business workshops are there to help. (Related: 5 Coworking Spaces and Business Incubators in Libraries that Support Local Workers)
3) The Library Lets You Serve Your Community: There’s no question about it, a good man is one who is dedicated to service. The problem is that guys are busy and many of organizations that need volunteers aren’t very flexible. Libraries are different because they offer a bunch of ways you can help: First off, if you have expertise on a topic, do like butcher Alex Pope did and teach a class. Librarians love to book interesting programs that are useful for their community, so get your public speaking skills in-gear and go drop some knowledge. Second, most libraries have Friends of the Library groups that raise money to support the library. While the retired folks who often run FOTL groups could always use a little muscle around book sale time, the really high-octane groups always have local PR/marketing guys, web designers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs as members — that could be you. Lastly, and this one should be no surprise: Offer to run a book club for men. Many libraries already have them, but if yours doesn’t and you think there’d be an audience, go make it happen. You select the books and lead the discussion. It’s a perfect way to bring value to your community.
4) Libraries Force You to Relax and Reflect: Between work, family, and everything else, life can go off the rails sometimes. Libraries are the antidote. They are a place of meditation and reflection; surrounded by the the sum of human knowledge, you can create a master plan for your life (or your week), think through something that’s been troubling you, or forget all about that junk and read Motor Trend for a few hours with zero interruptions. The library may not be a mountain peak where you’re literally above it all, but it’s the next best thing when you can’t get out of town. Note: If you go in the mid-afternoon when the kids get out of school, bring the noise cancelling headphones; teens and tweens en masse are a force that shall not be controlled.
5) Libraries Are Synonymous with Personal Growth: There’s a reason that libraries are called “The People’s University” — because they are! Want to master skills like programming, project management, photography, or another language? Many libraries give you access to Lynda.com ($240/year), Gale Courses (~$60/unit), and Mango Languages (comparable to Rosetta Stone) FOR FREE. It’s insane to me that guys who want to beef up in these areas actually pay their hard-earned money for those things! But let’s go back to the traditional role of libraries: I was recently listening to a 2015 Order of Men podcast interview with “The Learning Leader” Ryan Hawk and was blown away by how much importance both Ryan Hawk and Ryan Michler placed on reading. Those dudes read A LOT! That’s awesome, and you should form that habit right now, but you’re not going to connect with every book that’s recommended to you. Here’s an idea: Sample them from library first, and only scoop up the ones that are truly life-changing.
If you’re like most of the guys I’ve talked to about these tips, you’ll have found at least one useful idea above. The truth is, it was hard for me to stop at five; libraries are my passion so I could write a whole book giving you all the ways that the library could make you a better husband, father, teammate, brother, entrepreneur, servant, and all of the other roles that make up a man. But if I did that, it would spoil the satisfaction you will get from exploring and discovering for yourself the infinite possibilities libraries provide.