About the Library

A non-profit (501c3) association library with roots dating back to 1886, the Cortland Free Library was chartered by the NYS Department of Education in 1925. Today its chartered service area includes the City of Cortland, Town of Cortlandville, and Town of Virgil. Regulated by New York State with oversight from a 15-member volunteer Board of Trustees.

The library is funded through an annual library tax, an endowment, grants, charitable contributions, and support from the Friends of the Cortland Free Library.

The Cortland Free Library is an architectural treasure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been carefully expanded and renovated (as funds allow) to enhance the institution’s offerings, improve sustainability, and increase accessibility.

Mission Statement

The Cortland Free Library strives to provide information in a variety of formats to the people of the Cortland area and the patrons of the Finger Lakes Library System. It strives to make available library materials and programs to educate, inspire, enrich, entertain and inform. It strives to promote the tools, skills and techniques for literacy development, language skill acquisition, lifelong learning, recreation and research.

Library History & General Description

Cortland Free Library’s roots extend back to 1886 when a South Cortland Farmer, Franklin Hatch, realized his dream of endowing a public library. Hatch’s library, located on Court Street opposite the fire station, served Cortland residents for nearly 40 years. During the early 1920s, Hatch Library Board President John Suggett joined citizens to reorganize the Hatch Library as Cortland Free Library. The Library was chartered by New York State Department of Education on July 20, 1925. It sits on the site of the former county jail and courthouse. The library first served the city of Cortland and its charter now includes the towns of Cortlandville and Virgil.

Major facility expansions have occurred since the library opened in 1927: shelving for the glass mezzanine was purchased in the 1930s, a separate Youth Area opened in 1961, additional mezzanines were constructed in 1975 (North) and 1989 (South). A new roof was installed in 2008, an elevator addition was completed in June 2011, and the front entrance to the building was restored in 2012. The Youth Services area was renovated in 2013. The replacement of floor covering in the Main Reading Room and the renovation of basement areas for improved Information Technology services occurred in early 2015. In 2016, the main reading room was repainted, with special attention given to the detail work. The lighting was also upgraded to LED and fixtures changed to five historical chandeliers.  In 2020, the Art Gallery’s original ceiling was restored with dentil work, historical reproduction light fixtures were added, the space was reconfigured, and new floor, wall, and window coverings were added. Also in 2020, air conditioning was installed in the Youth Services area; a new storage room was built adjacent to the YS area; and the Periodicals Room was updated with new paint and carpet. As with all historic structures, maintaining the library building requires constant diligence and attention.

In 2008, the Cortland Free Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cortland Free Library, a member of the Finger Lakes Library System, houses about 70,000 volumes comprised of children’s books, adult fiction and non-fiction books, about 150 periodical titles, fourteen desktop computers, with Internet access, over 2,500 DVDs and about 1,300 audio books.  Since the library is a member of the Finger Lakes Library System, there is access to more than 400,000 items and dozens of databases for health information, college choices, national newspapers, periodicals, references, encyclopedias, authors and other resources including Heritage Quest software, a genealogy program of the U.S. Census records. In microfilm format the library has the Cortland Standard since its inception in 1867 and several 19th century local papers.