October 17, 2021

Cortland Free now offers listening service via phones

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Jen Graney, the director of the Cortland Free Library, chooses a story to listen to Saturday outside of the library. The library has recently started a Dial-a-Story service that lets callers hear a short story or poem.

Cortland Free Library Director Jen Graney recognized the pandemic has left people in Cortland, especially older residents or residents with underlying health conditions, isolated from others and unable to do things they previously enjoyed.

This includes borrowing and reading books from a library. While there are book collections available online, not everyone has internet access.

To address these problems, the Cortland Free Library now offers a listening service called Dial-a-Story. People can call a number, 607-838-4567, and listen to a variety of short stories and poems.

Interested listeners can call the number and then choose from one of the stories, essays or poems.

The current stories include:

“The Story of the New Year” by Agnes Taylor Ketchum.

“Uncle Richards New Year’s Dinner” by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

“The Snow Storm” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The Woods in Winter” by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Graney said she hasn’t gotten many responses on it, yet. But it’s only been in operation since the beginning of December, so she has hope for its potential.

“We’re really excited to offer it and people I’ve told about it in passing think it’s a good idea,” she said.

Other libraries also have created new, socially distant, services.

The Phillips Free Library in Homer has added virtual book clubs for kindergarten through second grade along with an intergenerational non-fiction book club to discuss topics like racism, said Sarah Bouwens, the assistant to the director.

They’ve been received “very well,” Bouwens said.

An adult book club, We Read Diverse Books, is also planned to start this month with a focus on books with diverse characters, she said.

Graney said the selection of stories, which will probably be about five or six, might be switched monthly but she wants to get comments on the service before making changes.

She also has thought about adding children’s stories.

Since the stories are free because they are in the public domain and tend to be older, she hopes the library can offer something new for people to explore through listening.

This, she said, is a large part of literacy.

“That element of discovery is something that’s always been valuable and exciting to me,” she said.