SiLLé Library Engagement

I want to tell you about this concept – the Self Initiated Life Long Learning Experience. This is a new acronym created by me a few months ago. It is a way that people use the library that is currently not described in any way. This to me is one of the backbone features of the library. It is something I have called SiLLé

Self – it is about the individual; not your parents or your school or your workplace.

It is initiated by the individual; not by a curriculum, or a government organisation, or a rigid course.

The double ‘l’’s stand for Life Long Learning; that is self-explanatory I think. It could have been three ‘I’’s but that would have been silly.

Public Library, Nice, France

Public Library, Nice, France

é – because it is an experience. ‘e’ also represents the electronic medium of the virtual and digital world that libraries are part of. The French accent I put in just to give the acronym some French flair, but also because the French appreciate the value of the silly idea. This public library in Nice France is proof of that.

Here is an example of the self initiated lifelong learning experience.

A few years back I read this library book. The Buddha, Geoff and Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas. I enjoyed it immensely. The book introduced some things that I had not heard about before:

  • SGI Buddhism
  • A chant that featured heavily in the story But I was curious to know how to pronounce the chant and what it sounded like.

So I listened to an audio copy of the book and enjoyed the story once again. I heard the pronunciation – “nam-myoho-renge-kyo” – but sadly no chant. So I hopped online to research these things. I found various versions of the chant on YouTube. And I found that the chant means “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra”. I also found out that SGI Buddhism stands for Soka Gakkai International and this is a Japanese branch of Buddhism.

You could do all of this without the help of the library, however this is where the library catalogue serves as a precision tool for the masterful library users. Using the library catalogue I can bring up the record of the book I enjoyed and then cross-reference by subject to find more books on the topic, or by that author to see what else this guy has written, or by the narrator because I enjoyed hearing the gorgeous English accent of Nicholas Bell.

So the self-initiated lifelong learning experience continues… It is a truly unique intellectual wandering specific to me, and my random interests; as it is for everyone. Through this process we learn new things, our knowledge increases, and some of these pursuits might lead to something like a job; but not necessarily. However the impact that is has on improved literacy is immense. And we know that improved literacy helps with freedom of expression, civil liberty and a democratic society.

Now let me tell you a story about this man Og Mandino. Augustine Mandino was born in 1923. After schooling he joined the U S Air Force where he became a military officer and a jet fighter pilot. He flew during World War II. After his military duties, Mandino became a door to door insurance salesman. But he was really bad at it. He became an alcoholic, failed his family, and became destitute. He wanted to commit suicide. He went to a gun shop to get a gun and end it all. But the gun shop was closed.

Next door there happened to be a library so he went in to wait until the gun shop opened. He browsed through the books in a library, and it was the books about self-help, success and motivation that captured Mandino’s attention. He began reading and found himself there at the end of the day, having forgotten all about the gun. He read hundreds of books that dealt with success, a pastime that helped him alleviate his alcoholism.

He found W. Clement Stone’s classic, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, and this book changed Mandino’s life. He wrote the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World. His books have sold over 50 million copies and have been translated into over twenty-five different languages.

Mandino eventually became a successful writer and speaker. This was before the Internet and before TED talks. He died in 1996.

The library saved his life. Because…

  • It was there
  • It was open
  • It was free to enter
  • It was inclusive
  • Full of many books on a vast array of topics
  • He was not answerable to anyone
  • His personal SiLLé experience with the library saved his life.

Travel with a twist

What is your favourite genre for reading? Romance novels? Crime thrillers? Biographies? Cook books? Sport? Chick Lit? Vampire Romance? History?

The genre I most like to read does not fit easily into a cute sticker-size description or book shelf. You will find these books interspersed amongst travel, self help, culture, adventure, biography, geography, fiction, poetry, health and well-being. I like to read personal accounts about people who set out from their known, safe worlds, and travel off with some purpose in mind – a quest perhaps. It is done with a spirit of adventure, challenge, and personal discovery. The single word that comes closest to describing this would be “exploration”. Or perhaps “journeys” – although the word “journey” has been cheapened in popular colloquialism.  Exploration of the world, life, culture, the individual.  It is travel with a twist.

In no particular order here is a list of some books I’ve read and loved that I think fit into this genre:

You can change your life

You can change your life. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it is not as easy as it sounds. Here are some essential ingredients that you will need:


Be willing. You might think you are willing. You might say you are willing. But do you feel willing? Really feel willing to make the changes necessary?

Be persistent. You may experience setbacks in your attempts to change your life, but you will need to persist with your attempts and not let rejection, disapproval of others, or failure to stop you. You need to keep trying time and time again.

Know yourself. Is this the change that is right for you, or is it something you are chasing because it is seen as something desirable by others? Know yourself well enough to know that this is truly right for you.

Realise reality. Know what the reality of this life change will bring. Visualise this new life. The reality of what you desire may not live up to the imagined life at all. Think it through carefully.

Make sacrifices. Know that you will be sacrificing some things with this change. Life will not be what it was. Some things will leave your life forever.

You have choice. Know that you are free to choose the life you want, but so are others and they may not make the life choices that are compatible with yours. You can only change your own life.

Be brave. It is scary. Once the changes are set in motion you may get nervous and you will need to have courage to keep going. It is too easy to give up and return to old habits and to what is known and comfortable. Don’t mistake this discomfort with unwillingness.

Photo by Susan Bentley Oct 2009You will always have you. You will take your Self with you. Remember that. You can’t escape yourself. But a new environment amongst a different group of people may affect your behaviour; hopefully for the better.

Uproot. Leaving your old life will feel like uprooting and it is. All that is known to you will be left behind.

Life will never look the same. Once you are on the road to your new life, the whole view of the world will change for you. It is as if the dust has been shaken off everything you see around you and you see the world with fresh eyes; like the eyes of a child; like this old familiar life and scenery is something new.

You will know it when it happens. You will know it when you have crossed the threshold into your new life. You will feel it deep within and you will know that there is no way back, even if you wanted to go back. You can’t. It is in the past. It was your former life. You have grown beyond that former life.