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Inspiration Tip for Creatives: Get a Library Card and Use It

How libraries help your creative juices run wild.

I'm going to let you in on one of our biggest secrets. We have discovered a treasure trove that has helped shape our art, our business, and our life. It provides literally endless amounts of high quality inspiration, is easily accessible, and it costs next to nothing. Are you ready for it?
The best $10 you can spend on your work is buying a library card.

We live in a time where our access to information is unprecedented. You can learn and master nearly anything you like. You just have to put the time into learning and practicing. The information that makes all this possible is waiting for you at the library.

Now, it's not just the affordable price of a library card that makes it so important (and rumor has it that in many places a library card is actually free). What's exceptionally valuable is the form that this limitless knowledge takes.

I'm talking about books.

The internet has opened up a lot of information and made it incredibly accessible. But there's a problem. You have to search hard to find high quality resources, and that takes up a lot of valuable time. Even when you find some information, you can't be sure of the quality of the source, and it's often cluttered with distracting advertising.

Internet info also tends to take the form of small nuggets. Little gems of insight. Those are great, but if you want to transform the way you think you need something more meaty.
Books travel deep into their subject matter. They look at the topic from multiple angles, and pull in concepts from other disciplines—herein lies the biggest benefit of the library for creatives.

Why Creatives Need The Library

Your work is the result of all the different inputs in your life. Each topic you study flavors your art like a subtle spice. If you want to stand apart in the sea of sameness, there's no better approach than to learn broadly. When you begin to add inputs from a wide array of disciplines, your unique blend becomes unmatched by any other. And then your work becomes unmatched.

This is why the library is pure gold. It makes it dead easy to diversify your creative inputs.

Here's how to do it:

Walk around.

Yep, it's that simple. Head to your local library, and start walking. Wander the stacks, and pick up every book that even remotely catches your eye. Browse without limitations. It doesn't matter if it's the title that interests you, or the design of the cover. Judging books by their covers can bring you to some fascinating places.

Soon you'll be walking out with books on philosophy, Renaissance art, architecture, cooking, leadership, and psychology, and they'll introduce you to new ways of thinking you never imagined.

How To Use The Library

If you haven't been to the library in a while, now is the time to go. You may find that things have changed a little. Since libraries are different everywhere I can't say the system will be the same for you, but I'll give you an example of how we use our library.


Our library (in Edmonton, Canada) has a website. Whenever we think of a topic we'd like to learn more about we visit the site and do a search. The site has the ability to track all the library books in circulation. We can see what's at the library without ever leaving home.


When we find the books we want we can reserve them online. The books are sent from whatever branch they're at to our local branch, saving us from driving around the city looking for a particular book. We also wait until there are a few books ready to be picked up, so we don't have to make as many trips.


The automated notifications from our library make things too easy. As soon as books come in we're sent an e-mail letting us know they're waiting to be picked up. If the book isn't available we'll be put on the waiting list, and e-mailed when it's in. Their system also e-mails us a day before books are due so that we remember to return or renew them (which can be done online).

Browse Online

Now, if you're not sure what you want to read, but have a general topic in mind, then head over to and browse their top rated books in that category. Choose a few that catch your eye, and then check to see if your library has them—they often will. If they don't you can request that they purchase a copy and you'll be put on a waiting list for when it comes in.

Beyond Books

Keep your eyes out for music, movies, magazines, audiobooks, ebooks and documentaries at your library as well—even more sources of inspiration just waiting for you.

Whenever you're feeling like you could use a healthy dose of inspiration, go and stroll around your local library. It's pretty much guaranteed to get your mind working and the creative juices flowing.

Rob and Lauren Lim are professional photographers based in Edmonton, Canada. They run the blog

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship. This week: Get a Library Card. Follow along, join the discussion, and share your experience at #goodcitizen.

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