January 26, 2022

New Cortland library director emphasizes reading together

Community focus

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

Jennifer Graney, seen here in the young adult section of the Cortland Free Library, started work Monday as the library’s new director.

Jen Graney likes to start her day with non-fiction. When she goes to work, she’ll bring along a book of poetry. She likes to kick back with magazines at the end of the day, and night time is when she reads her fiction.

Graney, who started work Monday as the new director of the Cortland Free Library, clearly takes her reading seriously. Reading is a passion she hopes to share with the Cortland community, and one way she intends to get started is by becoming a part of the community herself.

Graney, who now lives in Fayetteville, said she is poised to buy a house in the city. She said living in and walking around the city will help her get to know the community in a way that wouldn’t be possible if she continued to live elsewhere.

“I feel that will really be helpful,” she said. “I really like to be within walking distance of the place that I work.”

So if you see a woman walking a bijou poodle around your neighborhood, you may be looking at the city’s new library director and her sidekick, Baxter.

Graney’s hiring brings to an end a search for a new director that has gone on since October 2018, when the previous director, Rachel Hoff, was fired. Tammy Sickmon, the youth services librarian, served as interim director in the absence of a permanent one.

Meet the librarian

Interested in meeting Jen Graney? Drop by the Meet and Greet 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cortland Free Library.

Graney said she had “always been a library user,” and as such she recognizes that libraries are more than just an accumulation of their books. Libraries are also crucial community spaces where people can work, play, learn and collaborate.

“Really it’s a co-working space where people can create,” she said.

Graney used to work in libraries back when she was a writer for the Rochester City Newspaper. From writing and editing, she went on to work for a company in Syracuse designing website hierarchy.

“That got me interested in information organization,” she said.

It was her tech job that got her thinking about libraries, which spurred her to apply to a master’s program in library and information science at Syracuse University.

Once she graduated from the master’s program, she went to work as a research and development librarian for the Central New York Library Resources Council, followed by her most recent job, director of research and grants for the Fayetteville Free Library. She has also been recognized for her library work — she earned an ASLS Excellence in Library Innovation Award as well as an Antje Lemke Book Award.

For Graney, the best part of being a librarian is helping create a nurturing, welcoming environment for people to learn and grow.

“The most fulfilling part for me is helping other people,” she said.

In addition to being to librarian, a writer, and a reader, Graney is also a musician. She’s a vocalist and guitarist, and she’s looking for gigs in town.

Her latest project — a band called Reading Materials — she describes as a “garage country” band that performs numbers reminiscent of classic Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn with a harder edge. They most recently played a gig at Apostrophe’ S in Syracuse, and she said they’re planning to record an album in the near future.

What’s on her reading list

What’s Jen Graney reading? Here are a few recommendations from the new director of the Cortland Free Library:

  • “The Overstory” by Richard Powers: “The writing in the first part of it is just incredible.”
  • “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado. For readers who “like to read more for the experience than for the plot.”
  • “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons: “It’s for people who aren’t sure if they’re sci- fans.” But for sci- fans too.

Vivian Bosch, president of the library’s board of trustees, said the board’s decision to hire Graney was a unanimous one.

Bosch said the board was looking for a candidate “who was very community-oriented.”

“We felt that Jen would do a good job with that,” she said. “The sense that we got from her was that she would be very collaborative and that she would work very well with the team we already have at the library.”