By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer
— After 30 years as the director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, Charles Joray will retire from the position at the end of April, making him the longest-serving director in the library’s history.
During his tenure, Joray oversaw the construction of a new library branch in Russiaville in 1999, the South Branch in Kokomo in 2001 and the renovation of the Main Library, which was completed in 2010. He also helped combine the city and county library branches in 1983.
“During his time as the director, he has dealt with some pretty contentious issues,” said KHCPL board president Jim Seidel. “But no matter what, he has always been a gentleman and helped the board figure out what was best for the library.”
Joray began on Jan. 11, 1982, where his first decision as director was to close the library due to a large snowstorm.
Looking back at the growth of KHCPL, he said the biggest change has been the implementation on new technology like computer labs and online resources.
“The library has always been in the business of providing information. Now, it’s just information in a different form,” he said, noting book check-outs are still popular despite new technology. “People still want books, but they want the technology, too.”
Joray said the library has also expanded its meeting room areas, making it a gathering place for diverse groups and organizations.
“It’s kind of become the living room of the community,” he said. “It’s a place that’s free and where everybody feels welcome.”
Joray said the best part of the job was working with the staff, who he said created “an atmosphere where people genuinely care about each other.”
He noted the library employed only 30 people when he was first hired, but personnel has grown to 90 people today — all of whom Joray hired, except one.
“I’ve always recognized that it’s the employees that make a library good,” he said. “I’ve always looked for competent people who are friendly and personable.”
Looking to the future, Joray said he hopes the library continues to meet the needs of the community and adapt with the times.
He said he plans to move to Indianapolis with his wife and spend time with his family.
“Working as the director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library has been a great job for me,” he said. “My wife and I have often commented that Kokomo was a very good place to raise our children. We’ve become acquainted with many wonderful people who have influenced us in a positive way and shown us love and concern.”
The KHCPL Board is now in the process of hiring a new director and defining a job description, compensation and benefits. Seidel said they hope to find someone as “professional and personable as Charles.”
“While we certainly are going to fill the position as quickly as possible, we want to take the time we need to make sure we have the right person for the job,” Seidel said.
• Carson Gerber, Tribune reporter, may be reached by calling 765-854-6739 or via email at carson.gerber@ kokomotribune.com.