John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Smaller Board of Trustees

Posted on 30 April 2010

With the departure of board member Theresa “Tippy” Ameres earlier this year, the John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees has been shy a member, and after a discussion at last week’s monthly board meeting, it appears it may remain that way.

On Wednesday, April 21 the board continued a discussion on whether or not to change its bylaws to keep the JJML board at seven members, rather than eight. With elections for three board seats slated for September, board president Chris Leonard said it was important for the board to decide whether or not to fill Ameres’s seat now, wait until September elections or eliminate the seat all together.

If the board did choose to put Ameres’s seat on the September ballot, residents of the library district would be asked to vote for three three-year terms and one one-year term for the board of trustees.

“I think we should decide this tonight,” he said noting the board would need to formerly vote on the measure at its May 19 meeting.

By state law, the board must consist of five members, can boast close to two-dozen trustees.

“I would be perfectly happy with seven,” said trustee Christiane Nueville. She added she believes the board should refrain from appointing trustees in the instance of an absence, as it harkens back to a time residents in the Sag Harbor School District did not have an opportunity to elect its library board, and often appointments were handed out to the friends of sitting board members.

“I have always felt the more people to share the responsibility is logical, at least at this point in time,” said trustee Craig Rhodes, adding there is no reason the current makeup of the board could not stand until September. Trustee Carol Williams seconded Rhodes comments.

“I have been in favor of officially reducing the size of the board to seven since we had nine members,” said trustee Carl Peterson, adding other libraries and municipal boards function with seven and five member board perfectly well.

“Right now we are very harmonious and it is like a well-oiled machine, but there is going to be a time where people will be in and out, terms will expire and we are not going to stay like this forever,” said trustee Nancy Hallock, wondering if keeping the board’s current makeup isn’t simply delaying the inevitable.

Trustee Michael Garabedian added should a “troublemaker” come onto the board, they could have a greater impact on a seven-member board when it comes to a majority vote. Peterson countered an eight-member board can lead to deadlock.

“I think eight is an advantage because if a board is deadlocked, they have to resolve it,” said JJML director Catherine Creedon.

Peterson made a motion to reduce the size of the board to seven, and was backed up by Nueville, Leonard and after hesitating a few moments, Hallock. Rhodes and Williams voted against the motion, with Garabedian abstaining.

“This doesn’t have to be forever,” said Hallock. “Should the board find it needs more people another motion can be made.”

In other library news, the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library have announced it will host its house tour July 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with six houses up for viewing.

“What I want to appeal to you is to speak to friends who might be interested in serving as hosts,” said Friends President Gloria Brown, adding the Friends hope to secure 70 to 80 volunteers to help run the tour.

Lastly, as the library nears its Centennial – on October 10, 2010 – Hallock said the centennial committee has settled on hosting a parade from JJML to the library’s temporary space on Bay Street, and is also hoping to hold a birthday party at the historic library itself. Creedon added the staff is putting together a calendar of historic photographs, many which will be blown up and displayed first at JJML and then at the Bay Street library. Program director Martha Potter has also been awarded a $1000 grant to create an oral history of the library and is soliciting members of the public who believe they may have stories to share about the library.

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