Autodidacts Walk Among Us
Life experience, observation, and study are primary tools for autodidacts. And the Library is the epicenter of many of their lives. Ray Bradbury, a noted autodidact, shared his experience: “Libraries raised me…I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” Even if money or privilege isn't an issue, these passionate learners determine the establishment can't give them what they need. Many drop out or opt out of formal educational systems.
Artists, including performers, are popular autodidacts as are infamous world leaders and criminals. There are other self-taught scholars who only make the headlines in their respective fields or remain known only to family and friends. Below is but a smidgen of titles by, or about, autodidacts.
- The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
- A Field Guide to the Atmosphere by Vincent J. Schaefer
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
- The Potent Self: A Guide to Spontaneity by Moshe Feldenkrais
- The Autobiography of an Idea by Louis H. Sullivan
- Eileen Gray: Architect/Designer by Peter Adam
- The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius, Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel
- Jimi Hendrix Sessions: The Complete Studio Recording Sessions 1963-1970 by John McDermott
- The Most Dangerous Man in the World: How One Hacker Ended Corporate and Government Secrecy Forever by Andrew Fowler (about Julian Assange, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of WikiLeaks)
- The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh by David Damrosch (about George Smith, self-taught linguist)
- André Malraux: A Biography by Curtis Cate
Reading about autodidacts is one way to honor their contributions. Other opportunities include offering a ride to an elder who misses visiting the Library, and introducing the Library to a child; planting the seed of lifelong learning. If my math is correct, the Library will be ringing in the New Year with nearly 125 years of service. Let's raise our books, library cards, electronic devices and share a New Year's toast - Here's to a Happy New Year and continuing our quest for knowledge together in 2014.