Multipotentialite Magic Happens Here: Why You Should Head to the Library Right Now

Multipotentialite Magic Happens Here: Why You Should Head to the Library Right Now

Written by Claire Nyles Suer

Topics: Education

I’ve just started a new job in a university library, and I’m pretty sure that for a lot of multipotentialites, libraries are heaven on earth.

I’ve spent the last two years in a very different field, in an extremely busy state, without a lot of quality downtime, and with a fairly erratic schedule. A real go go go kind of lifestyle. I got a lot of fulfillment out of the work, but I also built up a weird tension in my body from that pace. It kind of felt like being on a rocking horse in a cold attic: unable to stop rocking, or I’d freeze.

But now I walk daily into a huge, sunny building, humming that particular hum of a space filled people who are all quietly working. I feel so much more grounded, stable, strong.

And sure, most of that groundedness is probably because my new schedule and pace of work are a healthier set up for me. But I also think I feel grounded because of the library itself, and what libraries mean to me: endless learning and broad connection to the world. 

When I’m in a library, I feel like I can plug back into the big picture. I get to see myself as a small adventurer in a world of ideas to explore, at whatever pace and in whatever direction I like. I’m not stuck in a silo, having to focus on just one thing.

Libraries rejuvenate my multipotentialite spirit, and I bet they can rejuvenate yours, too. Here’s a few magical things that you can do in a library, no matter who you are.

1. Light your next fire in the library. (Your METAPHORICAL fire. Whew.)

Are you having trouble finding your next passion? Spend some time just browsing the shelves, both fiction and nonfiction. The library doesn’t have to be big—even the smallest branch of your local public library will have some gems to ignite new interests. Allow yourself to pick up titles that you might put right back on the shelf. And try to hold back your judgment of your curiosity—no topic is off limits for you!

Personally, I can definitely recommend the periodicals section, where you’ll find a huge scope of different topics, all condensed together on a few shelves. Here are a few titles, at random, that’ve caught my eye there this week: “American Cinematographer,” “Play Therapy Magazine,” “Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts,” “Scalawag Magazine: Reckoning With the South.” I’ve noticed myself becoming interested in subjects that have never attracted my attention before!

Even if you’re not a reader, the thing about libraries is that browsing their shelves is still an amazing idea generator. A book on cycling might get you pondering cleaning up your old bike. A how-to on some kind of hand craft could spur your next exciting creations. A business book could spark your next work project. A book featuring the 100 best anime movies ever made could become your next bucket list (hit the DVD section before you leave the library!). And so on!

If nothing else, flip through a magazine—it might introduce you to a new thinker or creator. With some googling, interview listening, and wiki-rabbit-hole jumping, you’ll suddenly have a new favorite podcast, or hobby, or skill you want to learn! Just keep the shelf-browsing spirit alive: no spark of interest is too small or silly.

2. Catch a break from being a “doer”—return to the magical mind of a learner.

If you’ve been primarily making moves, getting stuff done, or creating a lot, you might need to ask yourself: What’s your ideal balance of “doing” to “learning”? Do you need to build in some time to just ponder big ideas, or to let your natural curiosity distract you a bit? There’s no better place for a little designed distraction than a library. Schedule some time to just tinker with new ideas or tangential fields, and see if brings fresh energy to your other projects.

I was surprised to realize, after the burnout and exhaustion of my previous position, that my brain didn’t just need rest… it was starved for some good ol’ fashioned learning-for-learning’s-sake! It’s been delightful to not spend every minute geared toward a goal, but rather to just get lost in reading about politics or television or whatever I like.

Of course, you might be experiencing the opposite imbalance! Maybe you’re knee-deep in learning and research, but struggling to find direction on the project it was for. When I’m in that situation, it usually helps me to just start doing, making, or writing something, especially something that will have no connection to the finished project, so there’s no pressure to “get it right” or “be productive” yet. You might find new threads or connections emerge that weren’t coming to you before.

To get “doing,” you don’t even have to leave the library. Of course you can write out some plans, send some emails, journal, or discuss your questions with a librarian. But you might be able to get even messier! Many libraries these days have a Makerspace, the perfect place to create stuff. They typically have a variety of materials and equipment to try, from legos and traditional arts and crafts to 3D printers and laser cutters.

Or maybe you’re not feeling unbalanced at all. Are you in a season where you’re feeling very happily focused on a project or two? Libraries are still super productive spaces. You can find a table, spread out, and soak in the good energy from all the folks working quietly around you.

You have both “doer” magic and “learner” magic within you—are you letting them work together in balance and conversation?

3. Take the time to transform.

Now I want to suggest a particular kind of broad-ranging, deep-diving learning that leads to a truly transformative kind of magic.

My inspiration comes straight from famous multipotentialite Ta-Nehisi Coates. In his book Between the World and Me, he writes about his time as a young man in the Howard University Library. I was struck with his voracious pursuit of knowledge as he sought to understand black history, identity, and his own experience:

“I would walk into the Moorland reading room and fill out three call slips for three different works. I would take a seat at one of these long tables. I would draw out my pen and one of my black-and-white composition books. I would open the books and read, while filling my composition books with notes on my reading, new vocabulary words, and sentences of my own invention. I would arrive in the morning and request, three call slips at a time, the works of every writer I had heard spoken of in classrooms or out on the Yard… I had to inhale all the pages.”

Can you imagine trying Coates’ method? Just noting any names or concepts that you hear, and finding books by or about every single one? Into my mind comes an image of myself with arms like an octopus, each one reaching for a different type of book. I can see the hours of reading and writing stretch out ahead… a pretty glorious prospect.

But more than just the appeal of all those books, I am interested in how this process transforms Coates as a thinker and a writer. He describes how at the beginning of this period of his life, he imagines there are specific answers, and a unified, true narrative of history and the world to uncover. He is looking for facts to back up his working theory of how the world works.

Instead, he finds authors disagreeing with each other everywhere. As he chases down ideas and interrogates everything, even the logic of his own beliefs and narratives, he begins to take “some other route which I could not before then have imagined.” He writes, “Slowly, I was discovering myself.”

I think this kind of discovery of ourselves—the kind of discovery that happens down paths we never expected to take—is available to all of us. Of course, thinking about employing Coates’ method might feel more overwhelming than exciting, given how much information we’re already asked to consume and confront daily. Taking the time to spend hours in a library, filling up a notebook with things you don’t usually think about, may not be the top of your priority list!

But the general magical principle holds, I think, even if you don’t take hours or explore every word you hear. When’s the last time you sought out knowledge, not just for entertainment or for productivity or profit, but for deep understanding? I think there are profound personal benefits awaiting anyone who does this kind of exploration, and allows it to change them.

So whenever you’re in the library, discovering your next passion or balancing your “learner” and “doer” energies, you can also take a moment to challenge yourself personally. Read about a topic that makes you nervous, or grab a book by an author who you know holds different beliefs than yours. Or just challenge yourself to really take something important away from each piece you encounter. Who knows how you’ll transform?

Ready to get curious, play with ideas, ask questions, and make magic? I’ll meet you at the library!

Your Turn

Have you ever experienced magic in a library? And if you’re headed to a library soon, what do you hope to find?

Claire NylesClaire Nyles Suer (she/they) is an editor, writer, designer, and community builder. They work with systems management at a university library, and are working on their first novel (which includes a queering of the Rapunzel fairytale, and lots of character angst over choosing a career). Claire Nyles also likes hiking, facilitating workshops, working with youth, designing logos, and playing the ukulele. They’re all about empowering people by helping them communicate and connect – to ideas and to other folks.

14 Comments

  1. Linda Ursin says:

    Let’s just say the librarians have known me by sight everywhere I’ve lived :D

  2. Ellen says:

    I work at a university, and being able to use the library is a major perk – except I tend to take out 20 books at a time on all sorts of subjects and rack up massive fines!

    • Claire Nyles Suer says:

      Ooph, yeah, library fines are the one rough thing. But luckily I get to at least feel like my $ is going to a good cause, haha.

  3. Catherine says:

    Thank you for this refreshing article! I’ve just started discovering this website and I can feel it has far more to offer than I could have imagined :)! Any tips on how to jump into multipotential learning when you are feeling stuck with thoughts that some things are useless or unworthy time/money?

    • Claire Nyles Suer says:

      Aw, welcome Catherine!! So glad you found us here :) Hmm, I’m sure we’ve got an article on that somewhere… let me dig some stuff up and get back to you!

  4. Lorna Hunter says:

    What an astute insight! I currently work part time at a local public library after retiring from being a government contractor, educator, counselor, electronics tech (in the Navy), world traveler, financial manager, 3 degrees and a failed business, and I am in 7th heaven! Now I know why the library was always my most favorite place in the universe! I don’t have to apologize or make excuses when I’m in a Library! I’m set free! Thank you for AGAIN clarification and guidance.

  5. Josh says:

    One of the fun parts of getting a new interest is going to the library and having a whole new topic to explore! Bookstores too. Every time a new interest develops time for a library trip. I’m working on 2 languages and the library is great for resources for learning as well as content.

    • Claire Nyles Suer says:

      Heck yes! I love finding a whole new section of shelves that I want to dig into! Good luck with the language learning :)

  6. Andrea says:

    Thank you for reminding me of why I love libraries. I love the feel, books, maker spaces and the opportunity to walk down the aisle of books and read something I know nothing about. BTW to me, librarians are the super heros of knowledge, learning and free speech.

    • Claire Nyles Suer says:

      Librarians are 100% superheroes. I’m lucky to work with so many of them. So passionate about their work, and about making information and research skills accessible to everyone. Here’s to librarians!

  7. Tamara says:

    Great article! I have loved libraries all my life since way before I figured out I was a multipassionate. What you have written about libraries having the power to rejuvinate your spirit is so true. I need to plan my next trip to my local library soon! Read on!

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