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In 2019 DC Public Library conducted a year-long audit of the organization. DC Public Library looked at internal processes, HR practices, and culture. DC Public Library interviewed and surveyed staff to learn what they needed. Staff were most concerned about:

  • Having a shared purpose and values.
  • DCPL recruiting, hiring, and retention practices.
  • How we talk to each other internally (internal communications).
  • How we reward and recognize staff.

In 2020, DC Public Library created four teams to tackle each of these important issues. They are the basis of DC Public Library's culture transformation work.


Transformation Foundations: Purpose & Core Values

DC Public Library's purpose and core values were co-created by a team of 18 staff members who represent all the divisions, levels, unions, and many roles across the organization. They worked tirelessly for 3 months to craft and wordsmith the exact phrasing of our purpose and values so they were as meaningful, representative, and powerful as they could be.


A purpose is a grand vision of what an organization exists. Purpose statements are meant to guide, inspire, and rally employees (and customers) to join a cause greater than themselves.

DC Public Library's purpose is

To be a cornerstone of community progress by activating dreams with knowledge, access, and hope.

DCPL purpose statement with annotations explaining specific words



Values are core beliefs that define how we make choices. They guide our behaviors so we can reinforce the culture we want to have. Values also support organizational goals and performance management and provide a framework for staff to be rewarded and recognized.

Our values are built on respect and radiate into the world:

  • Give & Get Respect. Is how we treat each other.
  • Be a We. Is how we work together.
  • Invest in Us. Is how we grow as an organization.
  • Welcome Everyone. Is how we serve our customers.
  • Stay Rooted. Is now we advocate for our communities.
Five DCPL core values with a radiant logo