ITHACA, N.Y.—Leslie Tabor, Tompkins County Public Library’s new library director, said that she fell in love with Ithaca while visiting with friends for weekends and festivals during her time in school in Syracuse.

“This is a dream job for me,” Tabor said. “I’m excited to be here and provide some stability, to be here for a while, and see where everyone wants to go.”

Tabor has worked at Appalachia Regional Library, Library of Congress, New York Public Library and most recently Phoenix Public Library.

“We’re the last space in society where you can come here without expectation of a capitalist transaction, and that is very important to me,” she said. “We reflect our diverse community.”

Tabor said she believes in libraries as a community center and the “people’s university” rather than being a place for people to be “quiet and buttoned-up.”

While the collection is important to offer the community what it wants and needs, Tabor acknowledged that libraries are competing with Amazon and Barnes & Noble as booksellers. “We want to have a lean, mean collection, and we want to have things on the shelf the day they’re supposed to be there.”

“We want to have healthy boundaries, but there’s nothing like a public library. To me, it’s a triangle of customer service, programming and our collection, books and things,” she said.

Tabor also said that another benefit of the TCPL is its diverse staff with ranges of interests. “People are passionate about what they read and what they watch. Whatever you’re into, there’s probably a staff member that’s into that as well.”

Since returning to Ithaca, Tabor’s initial goals for the library are to learn about current community partnerships, staff strengths and determine what low-hanging fruit needs to be addressed.

More long-term, Tabor said she wants to “keep the library doing what it’s doing” to support the community, but also fill any gaps she assesses with the help of the community.

“It’s more just growing on a really solid foundation, the community is really passionate about their library,” she said.

Tabor said that one thing she does want to move toward is updating technology, like self- and mobile-checkout options at some point down the line.

“We need to see how we’re harnessing things we’re already paying for, then making sure that’s reflected in our services,” she said.

Tabor said she’s excited to see where connection and community can be enhanced following COVID, when many of the library’s programs went virtual or to hybrid models.

“I think when I’ve had a calendar year, we can be more precise about what changes to make. I know that the team has done a great job and been really thoughtful about what they’re doing both inside and outside the building,” she said.

Tabor also said that the TCPL’s Makerspace is one of the best she’s seen and that she’s thrilled that there are always people in it. “Open hours are really busy and people have been really responsive to the programs,” she said.

“I think we’re doing a lot of things right, it’s just about what resources we need to grow, what creative ideas are going to spring up in the spring,” Tabor said.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is the digital editor/reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Joining in November 2021, she has covered a wide range of topics related to local news. She can be reached at,...