The Library Card: A More Accurate Symbol of Intelligence?

The library card is becoming an antiquated symbol of intelligence. Not everyone has fallen prey to the rumor that a library card is for those who cannot afford ordering a book from Amazon, or unable to download the e-version. Not everyone has forgotten the refreshing feel of grabbing a used book off a community shelf – not out of expectation, but out of pure interest. Not everyone has traded in their library card for a college diploma. There actually exists a moderately sized group of people who still cherish their local library card. That group needs to increase in number.

Is it better to determine a person’s academic success by the frequent use of his library card, or by the inscription on his college diploma?

What makes the library card a symbol of intelligence? I believe it has to do with the inherent freedom which is represented by the card. There just isn’t as much freedom in a college degree with regard to the pure pursuit of raw interest. Taking fifty college courses to earn a degree, because you are required to do so, just doesn’t have the same message as checking out fifty books from the library and reading each with an analytic determination to grasp a subject in depth. A person may learn a great deal of information in a college program, perhaps even being mentored by a professor; but most courses expect the student to follow the professors’ rubrics and syllabi perfectly, without much room for Lewis-and-Clark like exploration of the content. And most students are more concerned about the final grade than developing a deep, humble interest in the subject. Students may need to sacrifice a letter grade in order to truly grasp the content in depth.

What would happen if a student decided to wander away from the professor’s syllabus to study something which captivates her with a passionate engrossment? Would she lose a letter grade because her time was spent in authentic fascination? And if she decided to forgo her own curiosities for the success of receiving the professor’s A, would she later deal with regret; or even worse, forget what it was that struck her heart’s chords to begin with?

The library card represents self-education – the freedom to learn what you wish to learn, at a pace that suites you, with the community’s support.

How many college graduates passionately explore their curiosities after graduation, regardless of what it means for career development?

Much is said about successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who did not complete a college program. They had a willingness to forgo the professors’ syllabi in pursuit of their own interests, along with taking the bold steps to self-educate themselves with a furious curiosity to discover more.

Those who make frequent use of their library cards may be the most educated in our world today – whether or not they have a college degree. They have the audacity to think of their own curiosities as self-constructed syllabi, without expectations or limitations hindering new discovery.  If you don’t have a library card, get one; and learn whatever it is you have been itching to learn. Don’t wait for the perfect college program or professor to start your education. Take the initiative and start checking out books.

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