By Amanda Wyatt; Photography by Michael Heller
The year 2012 was a whirlwind for John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML), but don’t expect it to slow down too much in 2013. In fact, the library is moving full speed ahead with its renovation and expansion during this new year.
Already, scaffolding is being slowly taken down from the historic building, which has been undergoing a massive renovation since last spring. And if all goes according to plan, JJML will be able to break ground on its new, modern addition to the 102-year-old structure later this month.
The multimillion-dollar construction project has been years in the making, and was approved for funding by library district voters in 2010, but as Catherine Creedon, JJML’s director, explained this week, the library really kicked the project into high gear last March.
That was when JJML received its building permit from the Village of Sag Harbor, as well as a construction loan from the Bridgehampton National Bank.
“Those two things really allowed us to begin the project in earnest,” Creedon said.
For Creedon, nine months ago feels more like “a million years ago,” considering all of the work that has been accomplished in such a small amount of time.
The exterior bricks at the historic building have been restored with a new roof currently in the works. The restored stained glass lay light — one of the architectural gems of the library — will also be installed soon.
All of the windows have been restored, and new mahogany storm windows have also been fabricated for the outside of the building. The library’s lighting fixtures, which were originally wired for gas, are being cleaned and rewired by a master craftsperson in Connecticut.
The building’s “crown jewel” — the terracotta dome designed by the R. Guastavino Company and located on the third floor rotunda — has also been restored after a rather anxiety-provoking discovery this summer.
“We took off the old copper dome and it was in very bad shape, corroded in a variety of places, worn very thin and quite grayed out and green,” said Creedon.
But when workers began to take off the terra cotta tiles to replace them, they discovered that the steel compression ring — which went around he base of the dome — had been corroded. As a result, they built a temporary shoring ring which was used until the new compression ring was built.
“We knew we would discover the unexpected, and indeed we did. So that was a time delay and an extra cost,” Creedon said.
“I’ve been told that most of the surprises will be behind us. The old building held a lot of mystery, but the new construction should be a little bit more straightforward,” she added.
But as Creedon noted, the library’s “ongoing priority is to restore and stabilize the historic structure before we break ground [on the new addition], before we do any on-site vibration that could further damage it.”
And while the library’s exterior might be the most visible part of the John Jermain building project, its interior renovation is just as exciting to Creedon.
The library is looking into purchasing small, freestanding charging stations that are solar operated, which Creedon noted will be useful during power outages. These stations would be able to “power up a cell phone, a laptop or an espresso maker — depending on what you feel your critical needs are,” Creedon joked.
Currently, Trunzo Builders, the Wainscott-based company heading the renovation, is finding ways to rewire the historic building to improve wireless communication. Pat Trunzo III said his firm was picking out special floor boxes to be installed on all three floors that would allow for patrons to both charge their laptops and hardwire them to get internet access.
JJML is also planning to put in place a LOOP hearing-amplification system throughout the building for the hearing impaired, as well as computers with specialized voice recognition software, movie and music-editing software and more.
In the new building, there will be less space for DVDs, which Creedon likes to call “the VHS tapes of the very near future.”
The library, said Creedon, is seeing an increase in the number of people asking for help with digital downloads, e-book devices and specialized computer applications.
“We’re really looking at the new space and saying how can the library fulfill its mission of providing information to the community by being a teaching institution, by making sure that if more and more information is available only electronically, that we’ve not only provided access to that information, but we’ve given our community the skills with which to access it. So that has been key as we look at the design of the building,” she said.
“We’re always responding to changes in culture.”