In the month of April we celebrate National Library Week. Public libraries are a valued resource in our communities in both traditional and new innovative ways. They provide access to materials, are a resource for information, and encourages a love of reading. They are not only an essential component to our cultural lives, but have become an increasing economic one as well.

When surveyed, over 90 percent of Americans say that libraries play an important role in the community. More than half of those went to the library or the library website within the last year and over 70 percent of those with children went to the library this last year.

Yes, libraries provide access to books, a place to seek information, a quiet location to study and learn, and a hub for people to gather and engage. However, with today’s technology becoming essential to success in our daily lives, the public library has become the place for those without the skill to navigate the ever changing technology or have no home internet access to obtain assistance.

It has been the public library that filled the void for those seeking employment by providing the needed assistance in finding and applying for work when the State of Iowa eliminated most of the Workforce Development Offices. The library may also be the place where the disabled or elderly find help in applying for government assistance or the student seeking educational opportunities and other resources on-line. Libraries have evolved dramatically in recent years and have become the public resource to connect people to the information and the resources they need.

What books would you recommend?

I’ve taught a graduate/senior level class at Iowa State University on public management for a number of years. We don’t use text books, but I generally assign three to five books on what leaders and managers in the public sector are reading or have read in past years. I’m hoping that at least one of these books the student will want to keep and place on their bookshelf for later referral. The students’ favorite book, and the one that we start off the class with, is “Lincoln on Leadership” by Donald Phillips. Inevitably, toward the end of the semester a student will ask or I’ll receive an email asking, “What other books would you recommend we read?”

n “Keeping Faith” by Jimmy Carter. The book was a gift from my father back in 1982. This book is a memoir of his Presidency and it’s insightful, honest, and self-revealing. I admire Jimmy Carter and he has written an array of books on a variety of topics.

n “Running and Being” by Dr. George Sheehan. He wrote many years for Runners’ World magazine. Yes, this book is about running, but it’s more about “being.” It is about life and the importance of mind, body and soul and how all three are important in the “being” of a person.

n “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. The book tells the story of a little boy who gives the mouse a cookie and then the mouse asks for a glass of milk and then the mouse asks for something else and it goes on and on and on. It’s a great children’s book that many can apply to leadership; in that one has to be careful in what they give, for the recipient may want something else and it can go on and on.

n “Bonhoeffer” by Eric Metaxas. I’ve read so many biographies it’s difficult to select one. So, for the Lutherans in Story City, the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was a leading Lutheran theologian of the 20th century and a leader in the religious resistance to Nazism in Germany.

n The author David McCullough who has written such books as “Truman,” “John Adams,” “The Wright Brothers” and “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.” He’s just a talented writer with a gift of storytelling about people in a historical context.

A love of reading is a way to connect.

I love to read. I struggled early on in grade school with reading. My mother, a school teacher, knowing that learning to read is the foundation of a successful education and of life-long learning, took me to Nazareth College to be tested. From grades third through eighth, I would go usually once a week to the college’s reading center. I think of myself as truly fortunate to have a mother who was an educator, realized I had a learning challenge, had me tested at the college, and had me go to the reading center for assistance. It is hard to image what my life would have been without improving my reading skills. Probably because of this I am a voracious reader.

Back in July 2012, Story City served as the mid-way point for RAGBRAI and it was a blistering hot day with temperatures reaching 102 degrees. A number of bicyclists decided to call it a day when they rode into Story City. A young lady from Boston approached me and asked where the bookstore was located? “My house,” I replied. I informed her that we didn’t have a bookstore which came as a surprise to her given the town’s name of “Story” City. I told her she was more than welcome to a book of mine and I had my son Christopher bring over about six or seven books for her to select from. She choose “By the Iowa Sea” by Joe Blair which had just been released that spring. I said she could keep it, but several months later she mailed it back with a note of thanks.

In college, I took an independent studies class one summer with one of favorite professors, Dr. Dave Houghton. He assigned a number of books for me to read and after reading each book we would “kick it around” on the key elements of each book. Several months ago while in Kalamazoo, I had coffee with Dave and his first question was, “Read any good books lately?” Over the years, my good friend and the former Mayor of Ames Ted Tedesco and I have exchanged many books between us and I can think of no finer gift to give someone then a book.

Reading is the foundation from which an individual can build a successful life and in a community it is the library from which all individuals have that opportunity. So, visit the library and support the library. For reading is fundamental.