Orange Public Libraries director to resign, effective May 3

Jessica Magelaner, director of the Orange Public Libraries, has decided step down following eight years in the position. Her final day will be May 3.

Jessica Magelaner, director of the Orange Public Libraries, has decided step down following eight years in the position. Her final day will be May 3. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2024 3:54 PM

Modified: 03-28-2024 5:28 PM


ORANGE — The director of the Orange Public Libraries has decided to close this chapter of her life and step down after eight years in the position.

Jessica Magelaner, who heads the Wheeler Memorial Library at 49 East Main St. and the Moore-Leland Library at 172 Athol Road, made her decision earlier this month and notified her board of trustees and Orange Town Administrator Matt Fortier that her final day will be May 3. The Selectboard formally read the resignation letter at its Wednesday meeting.

“It’s just a very challenging position and I think eight years has been a good amount of time to be doing it,” Magelaner said in an interview. “It’s time for a change.”

Magelaner’s letter of resignation to the Selectboard mentioned she enjoyed her time as director but feels she and the library would benefit from a fresh start. The letter also states she has 140 hours of unused vacation time and is willing to work with the town to determine how to handle that.

“I would like to wish Jessica the very best in whatever the future may bring her, and thank you for your time and dedication spent as our library director,” Selectboard Chair Tom Smith said.

Magelaner explained that the library trustees will select her replacement and have already posted the job opening online, including on the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners’ website.

“[Magelaner] has been really, really wonderful. She’s so adept at dealing with people. She has that wonderful, calm Midwestern way about her,” said Candy Cross, who chairs the trustees. “She’s just incredibly smart. She just knows her stuff inside out and backwards.”

The trustees hope to have a new director by May 1.

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Magelaner, 41, grew up mostly in Ohio and Michigan and now lives in Turners Falls. She is uncertain of where she will end up next, though she said she will remain in the library field. She earned her master’s of library science from the University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2010. She said she will miss her staff members and patrons.

“It’s been very, very sad saying goodbye to them,” Magelaner said.

The Wheeler Memorial Library faces some challenges, as it has fallen into disrepair since it opened in 1914. Since 1983, the library has unsuccessfully sought an appropriation from the town to cover renovations. In November 2022, voters rejected by 58 votes a debt-exclusion override to authorize borrowing up to $10.4 million to supplement a $5.2 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). The vote failed, 1291-1233, with 47% of registered voters casting ballots.

“We’ve gotten a pretty clear message from the town,” Magelaner said in July 2023, “that completely renovating the Wheeler isn’t something they want to invest in.”

The basement — where the children’s section is — has extremely poor ventilation and relies almost entirely on ceiling fans and a dehumidifier. The library also needs a new roof, as the existing one leaks regularly. The building has no dedicated staff space and one small bathroom. It is also not wheelchair-accessible, though Magelaner said there is a bid out now for a ramp.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.