In a perfect world the former United Methodist Church would be the ideal site for the new building the John Jermain Memorial Library desperately needs. The marriage of two important landmarks in Sag Harbor’s history would be a model moment for the village and surely one we could all be proud of.
Unfortunately what is ideal is not always the reality of a situation, and where we live is far from a perfect world.
While we believe having the United Methodist Church kept as a public space would be the best ending in this story, we remain unconvinced that it is the right or ideal solution for the John Jermain Memorial Library.
Regrettably, we feel this has placed the library board of trustees’ in a position where they are not only taking steps backwards, but are now poised to disappoint a faction of the community deeply if they choose to continue to chart what has been their present course —towards Mashashimuet Park.
Worse, Herbet S. Newman Partners, the architectural firm chosen to help guide the library and community through a design and referendum process, stand to alienate a portion of the library district should they argue the church is an inappropriate space. The building has a lot of emotion attached to it for many, as it should, and especially given its history over the last year.
Ultimately, the John Jermain Memorial Library board of trustees will be under-serving its patrons should it choose the United Methodist Church parcel over the parcel at the park. The decision would be based partially on a community longing for community space — not appropriate library space, which should be the board’s ultimate goal.
We are concerned the church space would be prohibitive in what it could offer the library in the sense of facility and organization. Long-term maintenance costs is another concern we have, but ultimately time is the foe in this debate as we feel this stands to set the library board back months in its goals, and who knows how long if they must wait for the Town of Southampton to move forward.
While there are those who argue the distance between the park and the current library is too great — or the distance between the park and the village is too great — we disagree whole-heartedly. This is an opportunity to create a larger sense of space in the community — from the park through the village. And let us not forget a number of library district residents are not village residents, but reside in greater Sag Harbor — a collective that embraces the park and facilities at Mashashimuet already.
So while we wish we could stand behind the concept of the library board seriously considering the United Methodist Church for its expansion, we feel it was headed in the right direction while on its own path. And in a perfect world, a more appropriate community organization will step forward on the church’s behalf.Â