Look at the powerful people. Read their stories. You’ll find one underlying common characteristic of all of them. They read. Why do they read? Because they have realised that for you to have power, you have to read.

Dr Penninah, Kenya
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A career shaped by books

As head of the library department at Amref International University in Kenya, Dr Penninah Musangi shares how books have shaped her life and why they are so important to the medical students studying at the university.

My name is Dr Penninah Musangi, I’m a librarian working at Amref University with over 15 years of experience.

I always wanted to be a librarian. The passion started when I was in high school. The interaction with books and the quiet environment really made me like working with books. I pursued a Bachelor of Science in Information Science and my first job was in a library; I’ve continued to work in university libraries for the last 15 years.

At the moment, I’m the head of the library department. I have to prepare the overall goal of where the library needs to go. I bear the vision.

I sit in various committees, starting with the university management to the academic board, all the way to the research. Because the library cuts across, it’s one of the central places in a university.

Dr Penninah

You find that at the university, the lecturers or the facilitators only contribute 25% to the student’s education. The students are left to fill in the 75%. Where do they get information to fill in the 75%? From the library books.

Health-related books are very expensive. It’s rare to find a medical student going to buy an academic book. If the books were not in the library then where would they get information?

You’d get a student who may graduate but would not be able to practice because they didn’t have the knowledge or the skills in totality. They missed an opportunity to use a book to fill in that gap.

However, because of the library books, students can study. They can get different perspectives on the topics they cover. They can critique the books and they can challenge the lecturers because they have read books.

Our library is also open to the public. They have an opportunity to get health information from the health sciences books and also general information from the general books.

I chose to spend my life reading because when I read, it broadens my thinking.

Dr Penninah at the library

I think life would be difficult for me if I didn’t have books to reference, books to get to know what is happening. I would think that I knew it all, that what I’m thinking is the best, while it might not be the best.

Books give you information. Information, once you use it, leads to knowledge. When you implement knowledge, you get wisdom. That is what we call the information trajectory.

Look at the powerful people. Read their stories. You’ll find one underlying common characteristic of all of them. They read. Why do they read? Because they have realised that for you to have power, you have to read.

All images Ⓒ Natalia Jidovanu.

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