The important ‘why’ behind libraries


Several years ago, author Simon Sinek wrote about why businesses do what they do. At the time, his work helped me to better understand why libraries do what they do. The “why” is inspirational.

Over the many years of my career, I have helped many library patrons track down various bits of information. Many of these transactions have trended toward the mundane. But I have also helped a patron find some information in our archives, only to help them make a connection that allows them to find the name of their birth mother after a 10-year search. This is just one of many transformational stories I could share with you.

Our “why” is not to check out books. Our “why” is that we believe that a library can provide anyone the opportunity to learn, discover and explore — to transform. Library patrons, supporters and staff come together with the shared belief that curiosity and exploration can lead our lives into new discoveries and directions: be it a new career, a new friend from a book club or storytime, a new recipe from a cookbook, a new favorite author or a new understanding of one’s self and one’s place in the universe.

We believe that it is important to learn something new every day. Reading and learning are particularly important in the earliest stages of life, gathering in community is important, change is important to remain relevant, and that maintaining trust is important.

This inspirational and transformative possibility that one can find within a public library inspires us daily. To hear the glee in a child’s voice as they hold their first library card and say, “this is the most important day in my life,” is food for our soul.

Penrod is director of the Wood County District Public Library.

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