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2011 Winter Issue 6 (February 18, 2011)

Knowledge Quest: to the libe!

February 18, 2011
By Todd Anderson

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Raise your hand if you’ve only ever checked books out of the library because you needed them for class? I can’t see you, but I have a good idea that way too many of you raised your hands.

That’s fair though. I mean, who has time to read for fun with all this homework?

Or phrased another way, who has the energy to learn something new when we’re so burned out from the courses we have?

Well, I do. And you should, too. Let me tell you about Knowledge Quest.

Knowledge Quest is a game I started playing in the library when I was a sophomore. I’ve only ever played by myself, but more people would probably equate to more fun.

Anyways, I’m going to suggest something rogue and daring. I’m going to suggest that you browse the library. Walk through the shelves at random. Look through the titles. Stop when you see something intriguing.

Linguistic development in Medieval Eastern Europe?

The poetic legacy of William Carlos Williams?

The discovery and colonization of Brazil?

1920s French photography?

Find any topic that seems to call out to you, anything you wish you knew more about. Then pull down three or four books on the topic. Read the backs. Read a couple paragraphs of the introduction or foreword. Read the opening few paragraphs of the first chapter and the last few paragraphs of the last chapter. These are all the parts of a book that authors spend the most time on, and are almost always the best writing. Get a sense of the book, the argument, and maybe support it by flipping to some random pages in the middle. And look at the pictures, of course. Then move on to the next book.

Do all this on the ground, on your hands and knees, like an archaeologist.

Don’t spend longer than 5-10 minutes on each book. If you really want to spend longer, check it out and read it later.

After you’ve digested a few books, think about what they had in common and how they differed. Think about what you’ve learned about the topic, and which bits you’d most like to remember. Then form some opinions of your own. How important was William Carlos Williams really? How immoral was the colonization of Brazil?
Ask questions, and form connections. How does what you’ve just learned relate to your life or what you’re interested in? If you think about it, you can connect to any piece of knowledge in some way, and your mind will be richer for it. When you’re done, find some paper and write down a few notes to remember the experience. Then save it.

Later on, when you’re drinking or hanging out or whatever, you can impress people with what you learned, or just give yourself a silent pat on the back.

A good Knowledge Quest can be done in half an hour. It’s perfect for an awkward gap between classes or a lazy weekend. If you can get a friend to do this with you, you can both do the same one, then talk about it, or both do different topics and teach them to each other.

Don’t limit yourself to the course catalog for your learning. There are so many things worth knowing and exploring that you will never cover in class, you’ll just have to seek them out for yourself.

And our library, it’s so good. Unless you go to graduate school, you probably won’t have immediate access to a library this good for the rest of your life. So check out whatever you want. Check out children’s books (PZ.7) or comics (PN.6727) or space photography (QB.121) or French cooking (TX.719).

The Library is an all-you-can-steal Barnes & Noble, except you need to return what you’ve taken in a timely matter. It’s free.

Now go learn something. That’s what you’re here for, right?

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