Durland Alternatives Library

The Durland Alternatives Library is located on the Cornell campus and is free and open to everyone. The collection is comprised of books, periodicals and audio-visual materials focusing on cutting edge work in ecology, community, renewable energy, alternative health, organic agriculture and gardening, world cultures, global issues, domestic politics and policies, spirituality and a variety of materials on sustainable living. We are dedicated to providing free and open access to materials expressing viewpoints and information not readily available through mainstream publications and mass media sources. We are also committed to providing materials to under-served and incarcerated people both locally and globally.

The Alternatives Library was initially started in 1973 by Paul Gibbons with a donated collection of books on community, and in 1974 was founded as the Anne Carry Durland Memorial Library, a living memorial to the daughter of Lewis H. and Margaret C. Durland, who provided funding to sustain the library into the future. The Alternatives Library has been a center for alternative thought and socially responsible activities ever since.

The library not only provides materials necessary for creating peaceful and environmentally conscious lifestyles, but also since it’s founding has offered a variety of programs to give voice to people working toward that end. Throughout the years the library has presented films, poetry readings, public art, a televised alternatives newsbreak, and publications of work by incarcerated youth and adults. We’ve also formed partnerships with other libraries both locally and internationally, and co-sponsored a number of panels focusing on politics, society, community, religion and the arts. 

Our collection is available at the library in Anabel Taylor Hall, or throughout the libraries of five counties in Central New York through the Interlibrary Loan Department of the Finger Lakes Library System. The catalog can be accessed by going to our web site and clicking on the “our collection” and “searchable database” links.

The annual reports, also available on our website, offer a complete list of the activities provided by the library over the years.

Prisoner Programs

The library has two ongoing programs for prisoners—a local program for young men in juvenile corrections and a national program, Prisoner Express, for adult prisoners. Gary Fine, Asst. Director of the Library, runs the Prisoner Express Program

Locally, we work with incarcerated youth by providing information to help them in making educational and life choices as a part of planning for their community re-entry upon release. The library has established a scholarship fund for incarcerated youth at MacCormick Secure Center in Brooktondale, NY, in order to help them take online, college courses through Tompkins-Cortland Community College. The fund is also used for on site enrichment programs including vocational training, art, music, yoga and gardening. Volunteers who provide the programming strive to introduce the young people to a variety of experiences that help them see some of the possibilities available to them.

Nationally, the Prisoner Express program promotes rehabilitation by offering inmates information, education and the opportunity for creative self-expression in a public forum. Participation in this program fosters self-exploration, enrichment and knowledge. Prisoner Express offers a number of programs for incarcerated individuals. Visit the official program website to learn more.