Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System Director Bobbie Morgan began her job last week ready to oversee the construction of a new city library building and the renovations of four branch libraries.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Morgan has worked in libraries since 1989 and applied for the Pine Bluff position because she likes Arkansas. Although she did not know anyone in Pine Bluff, Morgan sensed she would enjoy working here.
“It sounded interesting,” Morgan said. “I had always liked the idea of living in Arkansas. I had liked the terrain and everything I had heard was good. This position came open and you were doing building projects. And I love to build libraries.”
Jefferson County voters approved a 3.0-mill tax increase to raise $14 million in November 2016 to construct a new library building in Pine Bluff and to renovate the Watson Chapel library. Similarly, county voters approved a 0.25 mill increase to fund renovations at the White Hall, Altheimer and Redfield branches.
Morgan replaces interim library director Taylor Eubank, who served in this capacity after the previous director Laura Whitehead resigned June 30. Whitehead was director for five months and moved to Waco, Texas.
Morgan met with Eubank during the interview process and took a tour of Pine Bluff.
“I met a lot of different people when I was down here for the interviews, and I was thoroughly charmed by the people of Pine Bluff,” Morgan said.
She mentioned the Go Forward Pine Bluff revitalization projects as connecting with the library’s mission. Pine Bluff voters approved a five-eighths cent sales tax increase in June. The tax began collections on Oct. 1, and the money will become available to spend on projects on Jan. 1, 2018. The Go Forward Pine Bluff tax is expected to generate $31.5 million over its seven-year lifespan, and the Go Forward Pine Bluff staffers expect to raise an additional $19 million to $20 million from grants and gifts.
“I think the library is an integral part of Go Forward because the library is the heart of where the community gathers, exchanges ideas and gets information,” Morgan said. “The fact that this community voted to revitalize the community and the library at the same time is very impressive. There is a lot of potential here, and I hope that will bring people back to the Pine Bluff area.”
Librarians help enhance critical thinking skills, assist people with applying for jobs, and assist with helping patrons find literacy programs.
“Those are the services I hope to grow in Pine Bluff and help the citizens,” Morgan said.
She lists the library’s programs through the library website, social media and the newspaper. She wants to attract more people to take out a library card, which begins with the existing patrons discussing their benefits from using the library.
“Once we have a new building, that brings in a lot of new people immediately,” Morgan said. “They want to see what has been done and how their tax dollars have been spent. That is a great time to showcase some of the programs that have been going on and that we are going to plan in the future and getting the word out that way.”