You’re a self-motivated learner. The local library’s book collection keeps you busy, but you want to branch out into other areas to keep you intellectually stimulated. But graduate school is out of the question, and even auditing a few courses at a local college is too much of a commitment.
Don’t leave the library yet. Just think creatively. Look at what the catalog has to offer regarding non-book media. If you can’t take a college course, then consider bringing a college course home with you. Impossible? Not at all.
The Monroe County Library System has a significant collection of lecture series produced by the Teaching Company and featuring professors teaching on subjects as varied as economics, Beethoven, game theory and physiology. (This, of course, is only scratching the surface.) The Teaching Company has recruited some of the best teaching professors, men and women from top flight institutions like Oxford, Duke, Stanford and Georgetown to develop learning series that act as college level courses, all accessible via DVD or CD.
Most series come in DVD format (although there are still some in VHS format, for those who haven’t yet thrown their VHS players out), or CD. But the Teaching Company itself also offers downloadable lectures through their own website, so check it out if you’re interested. If you’re not, I’d still suggest perusing their website, simply looking at the cost of most of the lecture series. Quickly you’ll learn that a three-week borrowing term (which can be renewed, of course) from the local library beats spending hundreds of dollars on one series, especially since the MCLS’s holdings are pretty vast.
As far as what the MCLS offers, there are the more basic course offerings on chemistry, algebra, and biology. (Some—but not all—of the more basic courses are geared to a high school level of comprehension.)
Then there are the more specific course offerings, like The Psychology of Human Behavior or Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality. Leaving the sciences, there is The History of Christianity in the Reformation Era, The Operas of Mozart, and The Ethics of Aristotle.
And if you’re bold, there are the really specific courses, like Consciousness and its Implications, Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages, or, for the budding linguist in the family, there is John McWhorter’s The Story of Human Language.
It’s a massive list in the MCLS; what I’ve listed is just a hint of what’s available. Enjoy lectures on Italian Renaissance painting, the American Civil War, modern economic theory, or even female heroines of the Middle Ages. Personally, I have to recommend Professor Thomas F.X. Noble’s four-part series titled The Foundations of Western Civilization. It’s a fascinating study, presented in a very conversational manner by Noble. Frankly, it topped some of the history courses that I took in college.
As I wrote this article, I put a series on hold for myself via the online catalog, which is easy to do. (Just search for “teaching company”, with both words in quotes, in the Author or Name field.) So take a break from a few books this summer, take up a challenging lecture series, and get hooked.