The professor at the Institute of World Cultura Studies, who will speak at the John Jermain Memorial Library next week, on the state of culture and society at the time of the library’s founding 100 years ago.
Was the creation of the John Jermain Library occurring at a time when there was a boom in public libraries?
Education was being driven by an economic paradigm. The growth of libraries was greater in this part of the country because of New York City’s growth as an economic nerve center. America was on the eve of becoming a political super power. That connection of the large scale to the local level, was driving the growth of repositories for knowledge.
Was there a general understanding that the public had to take on a greater responsibility in education?
At that point in American history there were a lot of things happening in the social consciousness. We were four years away from World War I and there was a greater awareness of what was going on in the world. Until then we had been isolationists;
and at this point we began questioning whether we could continue that isolationist thought.
Progressive thinkers had a more global awareness, and spearheaded that type of awareness in the communities.
We were riding the wave of industrial revolution.
Was there an opening up of knowledge?
Generally, yes. Knowledge had been cloistered in universities and such. The first wave of that continued to grow through the 20th century.
How closely did Sag Harbor follow the prevailing social and cultural changes of the day?
I think another part of the country, where circumstances were far removed, may have lagged behind. But because of its closeness to an urban center like New York City, it was very current.
How do you think these changes were received here?
They were invited because they were a reflection of the change that was already occurring. Their cultural antennae were up and they anticipated these changes.
This was the first rank of the human race that was receiving these changes in culture.
Who were some of the people driving the changes locally?
Largely people from the community who wanted to have a knowledge base out here.
What do you think Sag Harbor was like in the days when the library started?
A quiet backyard of New York with characteristics of a rural settings; but with an undercurrent of anything but a typical rural community. It was very much on the level of social and global awareness; a hotpoint for this kind of development in the state. There were people with wealth who traveled globally. There was a very interesting confluence of two different levels of society. At the time, it was almost a foreshadowing of America’s need to prepare itself for the coming need to be more socially aware.
Kimble Humiston’s presentation, as part of the John Jermain Memorial Library’s 100th anniversary, will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 14 in the library’s rotunda.