Jesse Chance. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Growing up in a jazz family in Rosendale — with his mother singing her soulful tunes throughout Hudson Valley venues in the 1970s and ‘80s, his stepdad a jazz musician and his three sisters all gifted musicians — Jesse Chance, 41, has been afforded many gifts that he now attempts to give back to the community that he says he has the “great privilege to serve and interact with on a daily basis” as the veteran manager of circulation at the Elting Memorial Library. “The community we serve is such a vibrant group of people that love to read as much as I do,” said Chance, “and I get to interact with them every day! I feel so fortunate.”

When he was 12, he and his family moved from a farm in Accord to Rosendale, where his mother ran a pub on Main Street called Jack’s. “We were a musical family,” he says shyly, never one to boast about anything. “My sisters and I all did chorus and band in high school, and I had my stint of dreaming of being a rock star in my young 20s, but now I just love to play the guitar.”

While music is in his genes, deeper in his bone marrow was the love of books and reading and libraries. “It makes perfect sense that I work in a library, because that’s where I spent the better part of my life. I began reading at 3 and have been a voracious reader ever since.”

He can remember his grandmother taking him to the New York City Public Library when he was younger. “It was like walking into this huge palace of books. I’ll never forget how awestruck I was the first time I stepped through those doors.”

It made perfect sense that he would find his way behind a circulation desk at a library, which he did nine years ago while attending graduate school for Library Science at SUNY-Albany. “I was living in Kerhonkson at the time. I had graduated SUNY-New Paltz with a BA, and I thought it made sense to try and find a job in the field I was studying. I was lucky enough to be hired at the Elting Library.”

Almost a decade later, Chance has moved to the Village of New Paltz, is the manager of circulation, has a son, Jaran, who is poised to graduate New Paltz High School and a new bride whom he met at the library and ended up marrying in the library’s outdoor courtyard last spring. “I’m very proud of my son, who was just accepted to Pace University,” said the beaming father. “He’s a real math/science/engineering type of kid, and he had a great education at New Paltz High School.” Chance felt that his son would have a better education in New Paltz, and thus moved here from the Rondout Valley School District, not only to provide his son with a better education, but also to be close to work and the community that he loved.

As fate would have it, Chance met his bride-to-be Abigail at the Elting Memorial Library. “She was a regular patron whom I always looked forward to seeing and talking to, and I guess one day I was inappropriate enough to ask her out, and she said ‘Yes!’”

Like her husband, Abigail is also a literature-lover who is the manager at Barner Books in the Village of New Paltz, just around the corner from the library, as well as an administrative assistant at the New Paltz Jewish Community Center. “Between the two of us, we handle a lot of the books in this village,” he joked.

When they were engaged and looking for places to marry, Chance said, “Nothing seemed right. It was too pricey, too clinical; it didn’t really fit us. Then we attended a party of the [library] Board of Trustees in the courtyard, and we both said, ‘This would be perfect for us.’” So in the spring of 2011, the two were married with friends and family and co-workers in the courtyard. “It was a perfect day; my family provided the music…It was a blur, but a happy blur, and it just felt right to be married there.”

As for his job at the library, Chance said that one of the great challenges that he and other librarians face is “keeping up with the technology, as it changes so fast and we have to learn it so that we can help our patrons learn and understand it.” He said that e-books were one of the newest crazes, and that “so many people now have Kindles or Nooks, iPads, and they want to understand how to download the e-books we [the Mid-Hudson Library Association] have in circulation. I have a Nook, but I need to understand and be able to help and explain to a patron how to download an e-book to their specific device.”

Chance said that he’s constantly “reading blogs and RSS feeds and trying to keep up with this changing world of library science and circulation, and it’s exhilarating, but at times it’s overwhelming.”

While e-books and social media are becoming an increasingly more prevalent and in-demand type of technological literacy that all libraries are having to embrace and keep up with, Chance said that there are still “a lot of people who want books” — meaning the ones with covers, made of paper, that they can sit with and hold and turn and smell. “We have people of all ages who are still in love with books, and it’s great to be able to help them find the one that they’re looking for or to point them toward one you think they’ll enjoy. Our circulation continues to increase, both in books and e-books — and then there are the DVDs!” Chance noted that with the closure of all of the video stores in town, the demand for DVDs and the library’s collection of them grows exponentially. “Our DVD collection is growing rapidly, and is always in high demand,” he said.

When he’s not busy with circulation, studying up on the latest technology, library trends or ensuring that the technology in the library itself is working up to speed and supervising desk clerks, Chance is often home with his wife and their 18-pound cat named Elvis, reading, playing guitar or “hiking in the mountains. We’re big fans of hiking and the Mohonk Preserve, and it’s a joy to have that right in our backyard.”

It’s also a joy to have Chance right in the library’s front room, where his smile and humility and quiet grace are always a pleasure to encounter at the circulation desk. ++