The plan for a modern expansion of the historic John Jermain Memorial Library has received a fairly favorable review from the village’s architectural review board – the committee charged with protecting the historic character of Sag Harbor.
On Thursday, April 8, the library’s architect Richard Munday informally presented the village ARB with initial plans to expand the 7,084 square-foot building with a 7,725 square foot, three-story expansion made of glass, masonry and stainless steel beams.
Munday said the design was meant to showcase what libraries meant to patrons in 1910, evidenced in the original building’s architecture, as well as how patrons use the libraries today – highlighted in the modern, open addition.
“They were repositories and expressions of what was thought to be the very best of what the human mind can conceive and your library very much exemplifies that idea,” said Munday. “It is a building that when you enter, you enter another world and you leave behind the village. You are immersed in this body of knowledge.”
Unlike the historic JJML building, where patrons are enveloped by the building once they pass through its entryway, the addition, Munday said, is meant to highlight the change in how libraries are viewed — not just as places where an education by the great thinkers can be obtained, but also as spaces where discovery of new knowledge is fostered and where one can reflect, from a visual perspective, on their community.
“Our thinking is that this library, this addition, should be different in its character, different in its expression,” he said, noting the Secretary of the Interior mandates that expansions of historic buildings should purposefully not mimic the original structure. Munday said the hope is that patrons enter JJML, still experiencing the historic library Sag Harbor has embraced for a century, and then move into the expansion and feel as if they are in a completely different kind of space.
“A library that doesn’t enclose, but acts like a podium looking out on the place we have come from,” Munday said, noting patrons will even be able to gaze at the historic library structure from the floor-to-ceiling glass panes that dominate the front of the new library – a design feature ARB chairman Cee Scott Brown called “compelling.”
The addition, which Munday described as “Chevron shaped,” wraps around the back of JJML with two wings visible from Main Street. While the portions of the addition facing Main Street are primarily glass and stainless steel, the majority of the rear is clad in stone, in an effort to minimize the impact the building will have on neighbors.
On the Jefferson Street side of the expansion, where people now enter the library’s first floor, outdoor seating and landscaping is planned in a pavilion-like, stone setting. JJML director Catherine Creedon said she enjoys the fact that the new design requires patrons to use the same two library entrances they use today, albeit upgraded.
“The new library addition really acts in the shadow of the old building,” noted Munday, adding it was designed to be a “softer presence and a more informal presence” than the original library building.
The renovation and expansion also aims for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status, said Munday.
Creedon explained the first floor would contain children services, as it allows for easy access off Jefferson Street.
“For all the flaws this building has, it has great acoustics,” added Creedon, noting the children’s services on the first floor will protect the rest of the library from overhearing story time or the children’s librarian engaging in another round of the Hokey Pokey.
The ground floor also has a program room and a teen collection.
The second story will be fully restored, and patrons will find the adult collections on this floor, along with a main circulation desk, a periodical reading room, a reference desk, multimedia areas, gallery space, and offices for the staff and Creedon herself.
The third floor will be fully restored, furniture included, to its original 1910 layout, including a working fireplace, and is viewed as a contemplative reading and study space for the community. It will also boast a climate-controlled archive, Creedon’s dream since becoming director at JJML.
“My first reaction is there is too much glass,” said ARB member Bethany Deyermond.
Both Brown and board member Michael Mensch agreed the kind of stone used in the expansion would be crucial to its architectural success. Munday said his firm is looking at different stones with red, brown and grey highlights, but has yet to settle on one yet.
“Conceptually, I like it very much,” said Mensch. “I think the contrast is well conceived between the two.”
“I have to say, myself, I am very excited about the addition and I think it is very sensitive and respectful to the original building,” said Brown. “It’s very exciting as a new piece of history of the village.”