Now in it’s 3rd year in operation at it’s new location at the intersection of 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue the Joplin Public Library is more at “The Center Of It All” than ever before. The location is close in proximity to Joplin High School and Kelsey Norman Elementary School, in addition to being within walking distance of several neighborhoods. The library, previously located in downtown Joplin went from having 35,000 square feet to over 57,000 is now a hive of activity any day of the week.
Jeana Gockley worked at the prior downtown location for 15-years before leaving in 2016 to take a position as Director of the McDonald County Library system located south of Joplin. Two years later she continued her career in Springfield, as the Manager of the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch Library in the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She continued to reside in Joplin while working in both McDonald and Greene counties. Making the 1-hour and 15-minute commute back and forth on to Springfield on Interstate 44 every workday so that she wouldn’t have to uproot the life of her young son.
In December of 2018, then Director of the Joplin Public Library Jackie Gauge announced that she would leave in February of the following year. A national search commenced which would be narrowed down to three finalists. Gockley , Kevin Booe, director of the Boise Public Library in Boise, Idaho; and Brian Sylvester, director of the Rochester Public Library in Rochester, New Hampshire. Jeana Gockley was named Director of the Joplin Public Library in early June and started in her new position on July 15.
Gockley , while working at the previous location in downtown Joplin and prior to leaving in 2016 helped in the design process of the new location. But before becoming Director and returning to the library had never worked a day in the new building. She admits that it’s “surreal” to be at the new, modern library and that both the look and feel of building were based on public feedback.
Money is always a concern when a running a non-profit like a public library. The budget of the Joplin Public Library is a main focus of Gockley as the organizations budget year runs from November 1st until October 31 of the following year. One way that the library has been able to raise additional funds outside of property taxes paid by the residents of Joplin is by offering services like passport applications and renewals, which was started by the previous Director.
Living in the information age has prompted some residents of the US to ask whether libraries are still relevant to operate anymore? Some have even written entire books on the subject. Glockey, though pushes back at the idea that libraries are out of date in American society saying instead that they are a meeting place for the community. That while the Joplin Public Library serves as a traditional library it also includes a Makerspace with 3-D printers. Also, a variety of services for children and teenagers, like Show and Tell, The Joplin Writers’ Faire and programs that focus on the history of Southwest Missouri. Click link for calendar of events at the JPL.