The Newburgh Free Library welcomes Ben Gocker as its newest executive director following the departure of previous executive director Mary Lou Carolan. Gocker, who first joined the library staff in February 2023, will serve as executive director heading into the 2023-2024 academic year.
Since starting, Gocker said he has been doing great and has received positive reception since taking on the new leadership position. “I’m ready to take on this position. And move the Newburgh Free Library forward,” he said.
Originally from Western New York, the Rochester area, Gocker’s path to librarianship first came about with his interests in writing. Gocker went on to study poetry at the Iowa Writers Workshop from the University of Iowa before moving to New York City.
It was during his time in the city that he learned about acquiring a library degree that was made more available through the Bloomberg administration. In order to obtain the degree which would be available at a discounted price, those in the program had to work at one of the city’s libraries. It was at the Brooklyn Public Library where Gocker worked and attended classes at Queens College to obtain his degree.
After completion of his degree, Gocker remained at the Brooklyn Public Library for several years and later moved on to work in other libraries in the upper part of the state. Other interests in art have also led to several of his pieces presented in several galleries. Today, Gocker and his wife, who is also a library director, have three young children who also share a fond love of reading.
Prior to Gocker assuming the position, the library was led by Carolan who joined the staff five years ago. During Carolan’s time as executive director, the library endured and overcame the COVID pandemic, finished construction on new research and educational spaces and has worked to create the library into a hub of community and family based services.
As the library director, Gocker sees as a priority to continue building and supporting the present library staff, plan for the future of the library as the years go on and improve and continue the mission of providing services for the community and for the children. He hopes that, however long of a tenure he has with the library, he would look to work to address these priorities.
As one of the few libraries in New York State that is governed by a board of education, Gocker shared that the mission of the library is to work with the school district to provide programs and services to the greater Newburgh community. Out of the 47 libraries across New York State, the Newburgh Free Library also serves as the central library for the Ramapo Catskill Library system.
“It’s [the library] a fantastic building, a great location and I think the people of Newburgh are rightfully proud of it, because we have an opportunity to not only be the best library for Newburgh but if we make some improvements on this building, potentially, within the library, we’re generally just gonna be one of the greatest libraries in New York State,” he said. “I always wanted a job where I could sleep well at night, and if I can serve the community that I work in and work for the public good, I feel good about what I’ve done. I think everyone who works in this library should be proud of the work they do and I hope that everyone in this community can be proud of this library as well.”
With the new role and the new school year starting again soon, Gocker looks forward to meeting more community members along the way.
“I want everyone in the community to if they want to come talk to me, talk to me,” he says. “I’m here, I’m around and I’d love to talk.”