Caption: Alex Browngardt relaxes on the denim blue couch in the Children’s Room of the John Jermain Memorial Library, as children have done for over two decades. The fate of the couch remains unclear as staff debate its merits while moving into a temporary space on West Water Street this week. (photo credit Susann Farrell)
By Kathryn G. Menu
Before Cathy Creedon became the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor she was a patron, who frequented the library with her two sons.
On Monday, Creedon recalled one day in 1998 when she took her youngest son, Per, to the children’s room of the library. The two snuggled up on the blue, denim couch in the center of the room and tucked into “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” which had just recently been brought to the library from England. Creedon whispered to her child that she believed something special had happened.
“There is a real possibility that we were some of the first people in Sag Harbor to read ‘Harry Potter,’” said Creedon. “So this couch is a real part of my literary history.”
Creedon is by no means alone.
Scores of toddlers, children, teens and their parents have found comfort in the denim couch since it was purchased by then children’s librarian Dale Scott in 1998. The couch was bought with some of the first monies donated by Paul and Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner to promote youth literacy in the village.
However, this week the fate of the couch remained uncertain as the library staff began packing up the contents of the John Jermain Memorial Library for its moves to temporary quarters at 34 West Water Street. That’s where the library will operate for the next two years while the historic Main Street building is restored and expanded.
“Some people loathe the couch, and some people feel it should be our library logo,” said Creedon last week, adding a number of people have expressed interest in purchasing it if it’s discarded. So many have expressed interest, in fact, Creedon said if the library does get rid of the couch, it will likely have to hold a lottery.
“It’s the only fair way,” she said.
By-and-large, the staff is fairly united in the thought that the couch’s days are numbered.
“I don’t work in the children’s room, so I love the couch,” joked history room coordinator Jessica Frankel.
“I can’t stand the blue couch,” said Donna Fisher, who works at the front desk at JJML just steps away from the faded and worn sofa. “I know people love it, but I don’t and I work right here.”
“The blue couch has always needed a good cleaning,” said circulation director Pat Brandt. “I think it should go and when we get a new one we should look at getting more than one cover.”
“It does look worn and lovely, but …,” added reference librarian Susan Mullin.
“I love the blue couch, but I think it is time for a replacement,” said technology coordinator and webmaster Eric Cohen.
He added that with the number of children who may have … well … soiled the couch, getting him to sit down and relax on it would only happen “in a Hazmat suit.”
But the couch has a soft spot in Creedon’s heart, and while its fate appeared sealed in sale at a John Jermain Memorial Library meeting on Wednesday, June 15, on Monday, Creedon said the library may “try and find a way to keep it.”
“There might be a stay of execution,” she said. “For many people it is the essence of the children’s room.”
One staff member delighted at that prospect is children’s and young adult librarian Susann Farrell. She fears she may be injured by mutinous parents if the couch does not travel to the library’s new home on West Water Street.
“Mothers have told me that they feel like they have raised their children on this couch,” she said.
Farrell added parents have already begun organizing a “Save the Blue Couch” campaign, and have left her their phone numbers, hoping to save the couch from oblivion should it be discarded. In the last six years, only one parent has been adamant about us getting rid of it, she added.
“Right now, the couch is in dire danger of being eliminated,” said Farrell. “It’s a dog in the pound, that is what it is right now.”
So while a majority of the staff appears happy to say their fond farewells, Farrell is experiencing a different emotion.
“I am terrified I will be tarred and feathered if that couch doesn’t come with us,” she said, seated comfortably in its left nook. “This couch represents the ‘at home’ feeling of our library that is so important to Sag Harbor.”