Jessica Magelaner - New Director of the Cortland Free LibraryNew Library Director Will Relocate From Turners Falls, MA – Where Her Last Post Was Director of the Orange Public Libraries, Orange, MA

The Cortland Free Library Board of Trustees today announced that it has hired Jessica Magelaner, MLIS of Turners Falls, Massachusetts as its new Library Director. The appointment was made based on a vote taken at the Board’s regular June 26th meeting, following an extensive, two and a half-month nationwide search. Magelaner begins on July 1st and will fill the position held by two interim and locally-known co-directors — Priscilla Berggren-Thomas and Kay Zaharis — after the library’s previous Director exited at the end of March, 2024.

A native of Granville, Ohio, Magelaner brings 14 years of librarianship — including 12 years of supervisory/library management experience — to the post, serving most recently as Director of the Orange Public Libraries, Orange Massachusetts since 2016; there, she also oversaw nearby Wheeler Memorial Library and Moore LeLand Library. Prior to that, Magelaner was Assistant Director/Interim Director of Mason Library in Great Barrington, Massachusetts (2011-2016), a Library Specialist I for Freedom Regional Library in Charlotte, North Carolina (2004-2010), and a Periodicals Assistant at Denison University, Granville, Ohio.

“The search committee was impressed with Jessica’s experience, particularly her attention to community needs, collaboration, outreach, and consensus-building. She’s well versed in creating and implementing special projects, overseeing collections, initiating community outreach, and staying up to date with technology.  We look forward to welcoming her and know that the community will benefit from her experience with a wide array of programming for all ages and constituencies,” said Board President, Lauren Mossotti-Kline. “I’m extremely grateful to the Trustees and staff who were engaged in the extensive search, which included multiple interviews, candidate visits to Cortland, and following up on numerous references.”

For her part, Magelaner looks forward to moving to Cortland, gaining a full appreciation of community dynamics and needs, and building on the Library’s legacy of excellence: “I’m grateful for this opportunity to work with a devoted board and a talented staff here in this beautiful historic building. I look forward to serving as your library director, and though there are many challenges facing libraries today, I’m committed to finding solutions together with the Cortland community,” shared Magelaner.

Highly competent in all areas of library service – including circulation, children’s services, senior services, reference, and all aspects of management — Magelaner earned her Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, NC and her Bachelor of Arts in English, from Salem College, Winston-Salem NC.

Wrapping up the announcement, Mossotti-Kline expressed heartfelt appreciation to Priscilla Berggren-Thomas and Kay Zaharis for their service as interim co-directors – and to the Library’s staff for their steadfastness, patience, and focus during this period of transition.

“We quite literally could not have done this without Priscilla and Kay holding the fort while our Board and personnel committee, in particular, conducted the search that led us to Jessica,” she said. “And the same is true of our exceptionally devoted staff. We are unceasingly grateful.”

New CFL Trustee, Kristina PetrellaCortland, NY – The Cortland Free Library today announced that Kristina Petrella has joined the organization’s Board of Trustees.

A native of Cortland, Petrella is currently a Community Response Team Coordinator at Cornell University. Prior to this, she was a Child Protective Services Caseworker, a Victim Advocate/DSS for Cortland County Aid to Victims of Violence, and an American Sign Language Interpreter. Petrella holds a Master of Science (M.A.) degree in Community Health from SUNY Cortland; a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Psychology (Magna Cum Laude) with minors in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Forensic Psychology; and an Associates (A.S.) degree from Tompkins Cortland Community College. Her academic experience also included service as a graduate assistant, teaching assistant, and intern; lecturing; and grant-acquisition.

“We are genuinely excited to welcome Kristina to our team of Trustees, where her experience with serving underserved and at-risk populations will add invaluable perspective and understanding to our oversight efforts, policy development, and input into day-to-day operations,” said Cortland Free Library Board President, Lauren Mossotti-Kline. “Kristina is also expert in matters related to the developmental and social challenges faced by youth, has formidable experience with the unique needs and perspectives of the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities, and she is, herself, a parent of young children and regular user of our library. So these, too, will help inform and guide our organization at the Board level.”

Petrella is also very involved in local volunteerism and civic engagement, serving as a community member on the library’s Ad Hoc Committee focused on issues related to homelessness; as dog foster for the Recycle-A-Bull Bully Breed Rescue program; and as a Cortland County task force member mandated by NYS Executive Order 203 (Police Reform and Reinvention). Additionally, she is the recipient of several awards and honors, among them being a finalist in the SUNY Cortland Distinguished Voices Short Story Contest, recognition as a SUNY Cortland Campus Champion, and winning the SUNY Cortland Psychology Department Major Academic Achievement Award.

Outside of her professional, academic, and community endeavors, Petrella enjoys Reading, triathlon, endurance sports, and spending time with her three dogs and five children.

Hello again:

As promised in my statement issued on March 26 – and building on the exciting news/momentum of our having hired two experienced and local librarians as interim co-directors – the ad hoc committee/working group I am proud to chair has convened for five weeks running to discuss, debate, and brainstorm ways to address the well-known issues facing our library of late. Importantly, we’ve also been doing independent fact-finding and tackling individual assignments between meetings.

Today, I am pleased to report that our committee (again, comprised of both library Trustees and community members) voted on, endorsed, and issued a set of recommendations to the library’s Board of Trustees on April 5th. This vote was after we’d shared these same recommendations with library staff, as promised, via a survey to gain their feedback.

After making a couple adjustments based on staff responses — albeit not wholesale changes some may have hoped for given the approach of the previous Director and given relationships staff have worked hard to foster with many of our community’s marginalized folks — I am nevertheless gratified to say the committee’s recommendations were approved by the full Board of Trustees and will take effect Monday, April 22.

The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Make select updates to the library’s Patron Code of Conduct, including replacement of ambiguous wording which will make our rules easier to enforce and updates to some of those very rules, most notably:
    1. A prohibition of food and drink in the library unless they are part of library programming (e.g. Baby/Toddler time, Taste & Tell Cookbook Club, etc.), sanctioned special events, or done in accordance with limits set for staff (i.e. covered beverages only outside of our kitchen). This will reduce risk of damage to the facility/equipment/collections, help cap cleaning costs, reduce tidy-up demands on staff, and reduce distractions for other patrons.
    2. A prohibition on sleeping in the library.
    3. And clarification regarding the handling of, and expectations for, personal belongings. (It should be noted that we have not prohibited plastic bags or suitcases at this time – as such a rule could result in discrimination; however, we still strongly encourage our elected officials to arrive at a safe, secure, and humane storage option for our community’s unhoused population.)
  1. Engage a security specialist to aid in enforcement of the updated Patron Code of Conduct for the period of 8 weeks (starting April 22). Please bear in mind that we looked at several approaches to ‘adding security’ – including municipal and non-profit collaborations that offered the hope of achieving this goal at zero cost to the library. In the end, however, we will be engaging an exceedingly reputable security contractor (the same company that handles security at the Tompkins County Public Library), whose customer-service philosophy and experience with at-risk populations matches our own. Following this transitional period, our goal is to ‘evolve’ enforcement back to staff in a distributed fashion or even consider the hire of a resource officer. Only time will tell.
  1. Provide additional ‘navigator’ support for members of the at-risk population who may require other options or ways to cope in light of our updated rules and increased enforcement. This help will be provided onsite by non-profit organizations in our community; invites have been extended to, and interest has been shown by, Cayuga Area Recovery Services (CARS), Catholic Charities, Family Counseling Services, CAPCO, Access to Independence, and Rural Health Institute (previously CACTC). Be advised some of these same entities have already been collaborating with the library thanks to relationships established by our previous Director. The difference here, we hope, will be both increased volume and a schedule that consciously runs parallel with the aforementioned temporary security presence at the CFL.
  1. Promotion of, and stricter compliance with, the Federal Clean Air Act, which dictates a prohibition of all tobacco products both inside and within 100 feet of the entrance of public libraries. Increased signage, more frequent walk-by’s from the CPD, and increased attention to security camera views of our front steps will combine to make fuller enforcement possible. And, as a result, we anticipate several benefits, among them decreased litter (cigarette butts and wrappers in particular); easier breathing for non-smoking patrons or those with asthma/allergies; and a reduction in spontaneous social gatherings on our sidewalk and front steps (which is a safety hazard for patrons requiring a clear path or access to handrails).
  1. Other adjustments:
    1. More security camera signage, to discourage illegal or out-of-code behavior;
    2. New signs noting the prohibition of bathing/shaving in restrooms;
    3. Signage that clearly and concisely expresses the most critical rules of our Patron Code of Conduct at a glance and to all patrons entering the facility.
  1. Not altered is the sharps collection system in our restrooms, as both empirical studies and analysis of our own sharps containers demonstrate this is an effective and safe public health strategy.

It is my fervent hope that these measures – the first and most immediate from this committee – will begin to restore balance to our library and help restore the trust of patrons who’ve voiced concerns about our situation… Even if, as has been made clear, our situation was exacerbated by lack of a dedicated daytime warming/cooling/community center for this vulnerable population in Cortland; and even if what we’re facing is a localized symptom of a nationwide challenge.


PS: Ongoing thanks to members of the ad hoc committee/working group; to local officials who’ve made themselves available to CFL representatives over the last few weeks; to the network of social service agencies who’ve offered to help the library through this period; and, of course, to our exceptional staff, whose talent, dedication, patience, and hard work/grace under pressure has been critical during these challenging months.