By Robert Pagliarini,
Tribune Media Services
One of the best ways to make incremental progress during your other eight hours is to learn. There are all sorts of newfangled websites that can teach you a thing or two -- some with nifty videos and others with PowerPoint presentations. Call me old school, but I think one of the easiest and most economical ways to learn is by reading a book.
But I discovered something over the weekend that's better than a bookstore and even better (gasp!) than Amazon.com. Stick with me because I'm going to introduce you to new terms and concepts that you won't be familiar with. It might take some time to digest what I'm explaining, but hang in there -- it will be well worth it.
A friend of mine told me about a place not far from my house that seemed too good to be true. Even after confirming it wasn't April 1st, I was still unconvinced. Always up for a challenge, I thought I'd run my own MythBusters experiment. So I buckled my three year-old daughter into her car seat and we set our sights on this mythical place.
About ten minutes later we arrived at a peculiar looking building. We parked and set off on foot. We reached the entrance and I started to have second thoughts. "Is this safe for a three-year-old? Is this some kind of trap?" My fearless daughter grabbed my hand and said, "Come on Daddy" as we crossed the entrance.
I smelled something. Something strangely familiar and comforting. And then I saw it. It was breathtaking. Row after row after row of books. They had every book I could want. And not just books but DVDs, magazines, newspapers, music CDs and even (pinch me if I'm dreaming) audio books.
The story gets better. Much better. After filling my hands with books for my daughter and me, we went to buy them. The price tags were a little confusing, so I asked the checkout person what the deal was. He told me it was some new decimal pricing system or something. I didn't understand much of what he said, but I had already decided I wanted the books so I threw down my credit card. "Fill this out," he remarked and handed me some sort of membership club form. "Is this like a Costco card," I asked. "Yes, something like that, Sir."
He handed me a membership card and then told me to enjoy my books. "How much do I owe you?" I asked. "Nothing, just return them by July 5th," he shot back. I drove home in a daze. Questions raced through my mind. I decided to do some research. I Googled "L-i-b-r-a-r-y" and got a few hits. The sites made it seem like these "libraries" are all over the place, but if there's one thing I've learned, you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.
All I know is that I'm never leaving home without my library card again. It is an amazing place with tons of free information. I can "check out" (that's their clever term for renting) books, audiobooks, CDs, movies, everything! My guess is that Netflix will sue them for some kind of patent infringement on the whole renting thing, but, until then, I'm loving libraries and you should find out if you have a library in your town. You can even find the nearest library that carries a specific book, CD or DVD.
Think about it. For $10 or $20, you can learn from an expert. You can read the latest trends and learn the newest theories. An expert may charge $300+ an hour or $10,000 for a keynote address, but you can learn so much more by reading their book for free from a library. That's time well spent.
Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six Day Financial Makeover." Visit YourOther8Hours.com.