What is your name, your library, and your role at the library?
My name is Julie Yockey, I am the Director of the Carthage Public Library in Carthage, Missouri.
What originally got you interested in working at a library?
My career began as a middle school librarian over 30 years ago. I loved to teach and loved engaging my students in reading and learning in the library. I wanted to be a positive role model in my students' lives so that they would love reading and would love coming to the library.
What keeps you coming back every day?
Having been given the opportunity to begin my public library career at the age of 55, some might think I was crazy. Why not just retire? My staff will tell you that working with me is like working with someone who has been thrown in a pit of snakes. I wasn't ready then and am not ready now to stop working. My Board in Carthage gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, getting to work in the most beautiful public library I had ever been in. Since day one, every time I pull into town and see that gorgeous copper dome on my library, I thank God for the opportunity to work with and for the best people I know.
What's challenging about your work?
My friends in the public library world know that when I accepted this job it came with tons of maintenance issues. We had a catastrophic water disaster that ruined all but the original library dome built in 1902. From that disaster we went into the COVID pandemic and we built a new makerspace facility. These issues are trying, but it is also very difficult these days to find and retain quality staff when as a non-profit, our revenue stream is stressed.
Has your work made you either curious, or passionate, or awestruck about something?
Absolutely, I have definitely gotten out of my comfort zone having to learn how to deal with adults instead of middle schoolers. In fact, middle school kids are way easier to work with than adults! Being a firm believer that the purpose of public libraries is to meet the needs of ALL people in the community, I am fortunate enough to work in a very multiculturally diverse community. I knew nothing about our Hispanic immigrants upon taking this job, and with a Hispanic population of 46% I had to get educated really fast. It has been great creating a program to teach our friends how to read and speak in Spanish and English plus helping them to earn their American citizenship. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish within the community and for our Hispanic population. I am also so very proud that we have a great early literacy center and our new makerspace building, "A Space to Learn, Space to Grow, Space to Share", paid for in full by a local donor.
Who is one of your mentors?
My Board President Gary Cole believed in me and took this lowly middle school librarian under his wing and taught me about leadership, business, and professionalism in a world so different from public schools. He took a chance hiring me and I will always be thankful.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Change is hard, but at 55 I took a huge leap in a new profession that I absolutely love in a community that makes me proud, but, I would not have stuck with this if it wasn't for my library director buddies! Jacque Gage, Carrie Cline, and Gina Milburn are the best library mentors and friends ever.