Former West Islip librarian brings new ideas to director job

 Jennifer Fowler, Cutchogue New Suffolk Library's new director. (Barbaraellen Koch photo)
Jennifer Fowler, Cutchogue New Suffolk Library’s new director. (Barbaraellen Koch photo)

There’s a new face at Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library, but it isn’t entirely unfamiliar to the area.

Although the library’s new director, Jennifer Fowler, just recently moved from Babylon Village to Peconic after accepting the position, she said the North Fork has always been part of her life. 

The Copiague native has six siblings and spent many summer months with extended family here growing up. Her husband, Steve, also vacationed on the North Fork as a child. Ms. Fowler has two stepdaughters, Erin, 20, and Lauren, 15, and an 18-year-old son, Daniel.

“When this opportunity came up I thought it was too good to be true,” Ms. Fowler said when asked about her career decision. “It’s my dream job.”

This is the first library director position Ms. Fowler has held. At age 16, she started working at her local library as a page. She later earned her undergraduate degree in English at Dowling College and received a master’s degree from St. John’s University.

From 2008 until she accepted the New Suffolk position, Ms. Fowler worked as the head of young adult services at West Islip Public Library. She’s also previously worked at Babylon and Smithtown libraries.

Ms. Fowler officially started in her new role on Feb. 10. She said she’s grateful she had an opportunity to work with outgoing director Alison O’Reilly, who got married this week and is moving to Austin, Texas, on a transition plan before taking over.

We sat down with Ms. Fowler at the library to discuss her new role. Here are some excerpts.

Q: What are your goals as the library’s newest director?

A: One of the programs I’m planning to bring to Cutchogue New Suffolk Library is specifically geared toward young people with special needs. I started an enrichment program at West Islip tailored for children with special needs and young adults with special needs. [The programs had] everything from life skills, which is the most important thing, to socialization.

I was a contributor to Barbara Klipper’s new book, “Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” I wrote about how a teen who wanted to become an art therapist volunteered to work with me on the program. We started a project where the kids turned a coffee table into art. We had an art show and unveiled it to the community. It was very exciting for the kids. I feel these types of collaborative projects are very important for a library community.

Q: What drew you to Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library?

A: First of all, you just have to drive past it — it’s just beautiful. It has a wonderful reputation in the library community. The Library Journal has rated it as a five-star library, which is a prestigious title. The community, the surroundings, the historical significance of the building, the renovation done in 2008 — all of those elements that I love I’ve also found displayed in the staff’s personalities. They’ve been very warm and welcoming.

Q: What would you like the community to know about its new library director?

A: I think it’s really important for the community to know that I’m here to stay. I know there’s been some transitions in the last few years but I’m really committed to this library and the Cutchogue-New Suffolk community. I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone in the community, learn what they want from their library, and continue to see the library grow in that direction. My door is always open if anybody wants to stop in and see me.

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