As the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library Board of Trustees Chair, Dan Guenther oversees the most important decisions made in this organization. Guenther began his term of service in 2007, and since that time, he’s seen remarkable changes at the library and in the community.
This Q&A is the first in a series of blog posts (and stories in our bimonthly magazine connectnow) to introduce you to those who volunteer to serve on our board of trustees. When Mr. Guenther is not overseeing the Library Board of Trustees, he works as director of se2.
Q. Why did you decide to become a trustee?
A. To be perfectly honest, I never thought I would be given the opportunity to serve on the Board of Trustees and when the City Council approved my nomination, my first thought was, what have I gotten myself into. Over the four-plus years of serving on this board, I am still trying to answer this question. About the time I think I have arrived at an answer, a new and different challenge arises and I find myself redefining my response. It is my belief, when I finally arrive at that definitive response, it will be time for me to leave this Board and give someone else the opportunity to answer this question.
Q. What area of the library are you currently most excited about and why?
A. The area I’m currently most excited about is the Kids Library. Simply visiting this area and seeing what has been accomplished over the past year and understanding the future vision and plans for this area, illustrates why I am excited about what we are doing at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. This area serves as one example of how we are finding ways to enhance and promote the learning experiences to all who visit our library. This is one example relating to one area, but similar examples could be given for the Red Carpet area, the neighborhoods and the list goes on.
Q. What are a few ways you’ve noticed the library is making a difference in our community?
A. I like how Andrew Carnegie described a library as the people’s university. Like a university, the library offers a wide selection of opportunities and experiences each individual in this community can access and benefit from. Whether it is using the Red Carpet services, visiting an exhibit at the Sabatini Gallery, attending a workshop or guest speaker, participating in the summer reading program, frequenting The Edge, taking advantage of the homework center, or simply checking out a book, we want to provide the opportunities and experiences to help our visitors, the people of Topeka and Shawnee County, to grow and even enhance their lives. The Library’s mission statement echoes this sentiment: “Your place. Stories you want, Information you need, and connections you seek.”
Q. Looking forward five years, what will the library need to do to make a difference for library customers and the community?
A. Think back five years ago, Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy stage, smart phone technology was just being introduced, iPads did not exist, generally you had to pay a fee for WiFi services and ebooks were a vision. When I first became a trustee, one of the questions presented was, what is a 21stCentury Library? This question is still in front of our staff and the Board today because we do not know what services and/or technologies will exist in 12 months let alone five years. The best answer I can give to this question is, I do not know, but isn’t it exciting to speculate on the possibilities. In business, you seldom want to be on the bleeding edge, but you always want to be very close behind. It is my belief this statement can be said of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, and that our library, staff and Boards are actively involved in defining the 21st Century Library.
Q. How long have you been a library cardholder?
A. I remember my first library visits. Growing up in my hometown, population 12,500, our city was fortunate to have a Carnegie Library that opened its doors on January 1, 1904. Now, I can assure you I was not present at that event, but I can definitely claim to be a benefactor of our city’s desire to have a library and their commitment to providing this service. I found two interesting observations made about Andrew Carnegie in the history of my hometown’s library; first, Carnegie saw libraries as the people’s university and wanted a place where people could come read up on a subject they were interested in and then attend lectures to expand on what they had read; and second, Carnegie asked not to have his name on the buildings he financed. He instead preferred to have a representation of the rays of the rising sun and the words “Let there be Light” on the front of the building. These two observations are timeless as they describe my hometown library. Even though I could not come up with that simple four character response, it was fun going back more than 45 years and remembering my first visits to my hometown library.
Click here for a list of all of our Library Board of Trustees. And be sure to check back on tscpl.org and connectnow magazine for more trustee profiles.