Tag Archive | "Catherine Creedon"

Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library Will Return to its Historic Building by the Fall – Hopefully

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After an extended delay, on February 1 workers finally began installing steel piles that will be used to secure the foundation of the new addition to the John Jermain Memorial Library, completing the installation February 15. Michael Heller photo.

After an extended delay, on February 1 workers finally began installing steel piles that will be used to secure the foundation of the new addition to the John Jermain Memorial Library, completing the installation February 15. Michael Heller photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

On Saturday, February 15, at around 1 p.m., the last of the new piles for the foundation of the John Jermain Memorial Library’s addition went into the ground, just moments before the snow began to fall.  Missing the snowstorm was a small bit of good luck in a four-year construction process that has been wrought with setbacks.

With the foundation excavated and the piles installed, Sag Harbor’s historic library is finally moving full steam ahead on its addition—and Executive Director Catherine Creedon couldn’t be happier.

“It’s great,” Ms. Creedon said Tuesday, “This has been, as you know, a long journey… the design process for these piles was intensive.”

Screw-like stainless steel poles driven into the ground to support a structure, the piles were first delivered in December after geological conditions, the historic nature of the 201 Main Street building and the village’s requirements that vibrations from caused by construction be limited together mandated the complete redesign of the foundation plan.

That part of the process was finally completed Saturday, “so we’re up and running now,” said Ms. Creedon. The next steps are placing the underground plumbing, electrical work, ductwork, piping, conduits and loop hearing system, or essentially everything that needs to be set in the ground. A grade beam, which helps distribute the weight of the foundation, will then be installed atop the piles and the foundation will, at long last, be poured over that. Ms. Creedon is hopeful that work will be completed by the end of March.

The restoration and expansion of the library officially began in 2009, when the community approved a referendum to fund nearly $10 million for the project, with the library committing to raise an additional $2 million. In the nearly five years since, the library has exceeded its goal, raising about $2.5 million through grants and pledges. But due to the setbacks, Ms. Creedon estimated another $1 million is necessary to complete the project.

“It’s generally, I think, hard to point to any one thing and say this is what it was,” she said of incurring the additional costs. “Part of it was the extended permitting process we went through which had its own expenses, part of it was work on the dome, part of it was work on the foundation and some of it was the economy itself; that when we had the referendum vote in 2009, we were in a period of de-escalation in construction costs and now we’ve moved into a period of escalation in construction costs.”

Ms. Creedon used to give timeframes for the reopening of the expanded library in months, but has now reduced her speculation to seasons. “And the season I’m going to say is late fall 2014,” she said Tuesday. Her personal goal is for the community—and the patient staff and patrons of the library—to be able to enjoy it again by the time it celebrates its 104th birthday October 10.

“The temporary space has been great,” said the director, “but I’m so excited to have the new building in place for us to be able to really expand on the programs we offer to the community.”

John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor Moves Forward on Excavation of New Addition

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The steel screws that will be used to secure the foundation of the new addition of the John Jermain Memorial Library.

The steel screws that will be used to secure the foundation of the new addition of the John Jermain Memorial Library. (Photo by Michael Heller).

By Tessa Raebeck

After years of planning and months of revisions and setbacks, the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) in Sag Harbor is finally ready to start the excavation of its new addition.

“It really is an exciting time,” Catherine Creedon, the library’s director, said Thursday.

The restoration and expansion of the library’s historic building at 201 Main Street officially began in 2009, but the project has encountered several unforeseen obstacles that stalled its progress.

One of those obstacles occurred when work began on the excavation for the new addition.

Soil borings, tests that evaluate the soil and its ability to support a structure, which were done in the early predesign stages of the project proved inaccurate once the excavation began in August, rendering the original plans to support a 7,000 square-foot addition obsolete.

The initial plan was to support the structure with long finger-like spread footings, a type of shallow foundation that extends beyond the building’s perimeter and transfers building loads close to the earth’s surface. After performing more soil borings, however, the library found several areas of the construction site exhibited lower soil bearing capacity than was initially thought, meaning a deeper foundation was required.

The usual response to such a problem is to simply extend the spread footings further, but longer spread footings would have reached off of the library’s land and onto the neighboring property, 6 Union Street.

“Obviously,” said Creedon, “that wasn’t a possibility.”

The next fix considered was to install conventional driven piles, screw-like poles of either wood, reinforced concrete or steel that are pushed into the ground. Because the library’s village building permit limits the amount of vibration the construction process can create, however, conventional piles turned out to be yet another impossible option.

Working with preservationists, civil engineers, structural engineers and architects — all within the parameter of the building permits and property lines — Creedon went “back and forth with a series of designs” until a plan was finally determined.

“It’s been a journey, but we’re there now,” she said Thursday.

The team has designed and ordered stainless steel helical piles. At 20 feet, they will be driven into the foundation in key places. A header, or concrete beam, runs along the top of the piles.

“The combination of the beam and the helical piles will support the new addition,” said Creedon. “So it’s a great day.”

“I’m so excited,” she added, “to open that new building and so excited at the opportunity to really fully serve the community.”

The new piles will be delivered to the construction site on Friday and twisted into the ground soon after the New Year.

Driving the piles — 80 in total — into the foundation is expected to take two to three weeks. After the header is installed, construction will start on the other walls and the building’s steel support.

Depending on the weather this winter, Sag Harbor residents should be enjoying their new library within the year.

“Our latest schedule,” explained Creedon, “is showing that the substantial completion [will be] in August, so my goal — and I think I tend to be an optimistic person — my goal is to move back in there for the library’s birthday.”

Founded in 1910, the library will celebrate its 104th birthday on October 10, hopefully in its new and improved home.

“And sooner would be great,” adds Creedon.

John Jermain Memorial Library Accepts Vast Collection of Native American Research Books

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Mac Griswold, Richard Buckley and Catherine Creedon pose with books from Buckley's collection at the library's storage unit.

Sag Harbor Historian Mac Griswold, Collector Richard Buckley and JJML Director Catherine Creedon pose with books from Buckley’s collection at the library’s storage unit November 12.

By Tessa Raebeck

As a child growing up in Little Falls, New York, Richard Buckley was eager to learn about the Native American tribes that lived nearby, but the materials he could find were minimal, ill advised and uninformed.

“It didn’t seem right to me the way they were describing it,” explained Buckley, who, rather than settling for subpar information, spent the next 40 years compiling an extensive collection of books, journals and other research on — and by — Native Americans.

On November 13, Buckley and his wife, former United States Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, packed his entire collection of 23 boxes into the back of their pick-up truck and drove from their home in Northern Virginia to Despatch Self Storage in Bridgehampton, where Catherine Creedon excitedly awaited their arrival.Richard Buckley

After a deliberate screening process of potential libraries in New York State, Buckley decided to donate his collection to the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) in Sag Harbor, where Creedon is director, because he knew they would be appreciated, complemented and, most importantly, used.

Buckley, who worked as a lawyer before concentrating primarily on his research and academic lecturing, estimates his collection includes some 350 materials. The most historically significant part of the collection is the inclusion of four journals on Native American history, to which Buckley has subscribed since their respective inceptions.

He began subscribing to the American Indian Culture and Research Journal when it was first published in 1979, and the journals now fill four boxes.

The journals “give an incredible amount of new history,” said Buckley. “History that had never been written from the viewpoint of American Indians.”

“These journals,” he continued, “have covered everything from the history to the current preservation of Native American tribes throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s. If someone were to read those journals, they could write a thesis.”

The collection also includes 15 boxes of books on Native Americans, separated by topics such as women, Iroquois and “Excellent/General Overviews.”

In compiling his collection, Buckley first tackled the Native American history of New York State, moving on to the entire continental United States and eventually to Alaska and Latin America. The collection also includes extensive documentation of the present condition of Native Americans.

“That is probably the underlying value of the collection,” explained Buckley, “to have that approach of — both historically and currently — the ongoing evolution of American Indian history…. The collection’s value is to show that American Indians are not only here, but they’re living out their history, they’re living out their story.”

Once his collection was complete with an extensive variety of viewpoints from both men and women across different regions, tribes and cultures, Buckley faced the daunting task of deciding where his work belonged.

“What I did was,” he explained, “because I didn’t want these to go anywhere, I wanted them to be in a certain library — when I contacted [the libraries], I’d then know whether it was the right fit.”

Former Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, JJML Director Catherine Creedon and Richard Buckley in the midst of delivering the collection November 12.

Former Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, JJML Director Catherine Creedon and Richard Buckley in the midst of delivering the collection November 12.

At first, Buckley put a notice in the regional library system of central New York, where he grew up. Without any quick responses, he sent the notice to the statewide system.

Within a few days, he was on the phone with Cathy Creedon.

“By the initial interest,” he said, “I could see that she was really interested and they were looking for something to complement the new renovation and the newly restored old beautiful building.”

Since JJML opened in 1910, the History Room has been an integral part of the library. It started with rare materials from the personal library of William Wallace Tooker, a Sag Harbor pharmacist who was also an ethnographer with an interest in Algonquin history. Tooker’s collection in JJML includes the Eliot Indian Bible, a bible in the Algonquin language that was the first bible printed in the colonies.

After unloading the 23 boxes into a storage unit, Creedon gave Buckley a tour of the new building, including the history room, which once completed will be climate-controlled, humidity-controlled and temperature-controlled.

“The tour of the library was the final proof that my donation will ‘fit’ with the future use of the library — particularly the special research room,” said Buckley. “The primary reason for donating the collection to [JJML] is Cathy. She will ensure that the collection is used in the most effective manner.”

In a message to Creedon, Buckley envisioned his collection in Sag Harbor.

“I imagined,” he wrote, “that you would have at the opening of your beautiful library — a researcher would be reserving the special room and using the American Indian collection. She will complete a new powerful book about the contributions of Indian women.”

“I thought that was a real tribute to the role of a public library,” said Creedon.

Rescuing the Dome

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A temporary steel band that encircles the outer dome at the John Jermain Memorial Library was installed on Monday, July 30th, 2012, that will hold the dome in place securely while a new, permanant band is installed

by Amanda Wyatt

What do Grand Central Station, the Boston Public Library, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the University of Virginia all have in common with John Jermain Memorial Library?

Each of these historic structures feature domes designed by the R. Guastavino Company, a celebrated architectural firm of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The company, which used a special type of arch technology and terracotta tiles, built over a thousand domes across the globe.

But today, the dome at John Jermain — which is often considered the “crown jewel” of the building — is undergoing major repairs.

In the midst of their multi-million dollar renovation project, workers at Trunzo Builders recently discovered that the brass tension ring inside the dome had been significantly corroded.

In an interview, JJML library director Catherine Creedon said that most of the corrosion was caused by over a century of water damage.

“I think I’m learning that whatever it is in life, water’s our enemy,” joked Creedon. “Water sort of sustains us, but in terms of its effect on inanimate objects, it really hastens their aging process.”

“We had a hundred years of heavy winds and nor’easters being driven against the building,” she added. “It’s an organic building, it’s a breathable building, and it’s made out of natural materials, so it’s not exceptional that we would find corrosion or water damage in the dome.”

Creedon explained that the dome is made up of two layers – the copper layer that can be seen from the outside, and the inner layer made of terracotta tile. The terracotta dome is self-supporting, using Guastavino’s innovative arch technology.

“But the drum, the straight-sided cylinder that fits below the dome, was held in place by an iron compression ring,” said Creedon. “Once we took off the copper [layer], we realized that that compression ring had corroded.”

For both safety and architectural reasons, Trunzo Builders — the company renovating the library — is in the process of replacing the ring.

“To do that, we have to set up a temporary buttressing of the whole dome,” said Pat Trunzo, the company’s owner and CEO. “Basically, it looks like a lot of spokes that we’re going to put back against the base of the dome from a new temporary tension ring.”

Once they receive the temporary ring, the builders will assemble it on top of the posts that they have erected.

“Then we’ll start blocking from the inside of the temporary ring back against the masonry that is at the base of the dome structure,” Trunzo said.

After an engineer examines the work, Trunzo said his company plans to complete an eight-foot section of the dome at a time.

“We’re going to take out our spoke blocking to move the masonry, cut out a piece of steel ring, put a new stainless steel piece of ring in, ground it and move to the next section adjacent to it, and work our way around the whole dome,” Trunzo said.

Trunzo noted that the company had also begun installing a sophisticated geotechnical monitoring system on the dome that would detect any movement. If there’s even a slight movement, work on the dome will immediately cease and the situation will be reviewed by an engineer.

Once the monitoring system is set up and “the engineer has signed off on the setup, then we’ll start removing masonry, cutting out the old steel ring, replacing the new steel ring, grouting it, and so forth,” Trunzo said. “But we figure it will take a week’s time to get all the way around the dome.”

Regarding the rest of the dome, Trunzo believed that the tile work was still strong. However, some of the mortar-work between the tiles was soft, which is something he said they plan to look into after the tension ring has been replaced.

Creedon said that she was pleased that they had discovered the problem with the ring “at a time when the building was still agreeable to that repair.”

“Visually, if nothing else, the dome links us to all of these other historic institutional buildings across the Northeast,” she said. “So in that sense it ties us into a fabric that spans from Boston to Virginia.

“It also, I think, is the first welcome that anyone coming into Sag Harbor from the south sees,” she added. “It really is a beacon about this village’s commitment to the arts.”

JJML Board Adopts Budget

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Sidebar: The Library Budget


As the John Jermain Memorial Library’s Board of Trustees finalized its 2013 proposed budget, it always intended to stay within a state mandated two-percent property tax levy cap, which all school districts, municipalities and public libraries are subject to, according to Director Catherine Creedon.

“It is this board’s intention to have a conservative budget understanding that the economy is a factor for the community we serve,” says Creedon.

Last Wednesday, the JJML Board of Trustees adopted a proposed $2,158,915 budget within the two percent increase. That budget includes $905,000 in debt service for the $10 million bond school district voters approved over three years ago for the expansion and renovation of the historic John Jermain Memorial Library building on Main Street.

Creedon said that most line items are in line with the library’s 2012 $2,158,200 budget, which was approved by voters in the Sag Harbor School District although there have been a few notable changes. The library expects to generate less income from the Xerox copier, computer printer and through fines as people are more able to print and copy at home and can renew books online.

The library also plans to invest less in reference books and adult periodicals, but more in the virtual reference collection and digital books.

Custodial salaries will rise as a result of the move to 201 Main Street, which will be a bigger building. Buildings and grounds expenses will also go up, as will utilities, said Creedon. According to Creedon, those costs are expected to rise from $32,000 in 2011-2012 to $36,000 in 2012-2013.

Administrative expenses like newsletter printings and mailings will rise in cost from about $9,800 to about $10,860. Office supplies will rise from $12,000 to $12,680.

The next meeting of the JJML Board of Trustees will take place on Wednesday, July 18 at 6 p.m.

Library Embraces Its Future

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Emily J Weitz

For someone like John Jermain Library Director Catherine Creedon, who has been working in the library system since 1975, technology has revolutionized the job. But if you ask her how technology has changed the mission of libraries, she’ll tell you it hasn’t.

“John Jermain and public libraries in general have always been dedicated to making sure the public get the information they need,” says Creedon, “and making that information accessible to all segments we serve. What technology has changed is the way we implement and satisfy that mission.”

When Creedon started out in the field, card catalogues and the Dewey Decimal System were used to access that information. Librarians assisted patrons by helping them navigate thick reference books or calling organizations and businesses to get data. By way of example, Creedon pulls a thick, dusty green book off her shelf.

“We used the Readers’ Guide to Periodicals,” she says. “This is like an artifact now, like you’d keep your grandmother’s spinning wheel in your living room.”

Creedon notes that this has happened to a lot of tools that were standard research materials a quarter century ago, and are now all but obsolete. And it’s because of the dawn of the Internet.

At the same time, Creedon points out that not everyone has a laptop, not everyone has access to the Internet, and it is built in to the library’s mission that it help those people have access to information as well. As a result, John Jermain Library has purchased laptops for in-library use, increased the number of desktops available, and made wireless Internet accessible throughout the library. The library has also started offering classes in everything from Beginning PC and Beginning Mac (in partnership with local business GeekHampton) to Photoshop and How to Use an iPad. There are iPads available for young children in the children’s section of the library. The Teen Writing Group has its own online blog through the library (moss.johnjermain.org). The library has also added a copy machine that scans and faxes, and once the library moves back into the permanent space at 201 Main Street, there will be many more changes adopted.

“It goes back to our mission,” says Creedon. “It is the library’s mandate to make sure information is available to the community. So much information is only available digitally now. There are so many job postings that will only accept applications online.”

Creedon tells a story, with tears in her eyes, of a recent occurrence when a library patron who had been out of work for some time met the staff at the door as they were about to open in the morning.

“She was facing deadline for a job application, and didn’t have a computer,” says Creedon. “She got assistance in using a public computer from the librarian, and she contacted us later to let us know she got the job.”

But technology changes fast — so even as the John Jermain Library works to incorporate all these new technologies into its offerings, the staff also needs to keep an eye on the future. Construction of the new space has helped them envision the future.

“We will have a digital media lab,” says Creedon, “with music editing and movie editing software. We’re looking at 3D printers where you can use drawing software to print something that can be assembled. Ideas are not always two dimensional.”

Creedon has also been working with the library’s tech advisor Eric Cohen on the idea of becoming more of a resource for the local music scene.

“We hope local musicians can bring their CDs and we can make them available here,” she says. “People without recording contracts can still be heard.”

But Creedon notes for all the forward thinking that technology inspires, it also offers a great resource for preserving the past.

“I think technology supports our commitment to local history,” says Creedon. “The ability to scan rare historic documents, to make things more widely available, to collect in a digital format : it all gives us access to the micro-local.”

But change in a historic institution like a library doesn’t just mean the director needs to have an eye on the future. It means all the employees need to be willing to grow and develop their skills as the world demands.

“We view new technology as an imperative as part of the way we’ll be delivering service,” says Creedon. This means mandatory trainings, which the library has held, in which all public service staff have had to demonstrate competencies in a range of technologies from eBooks to posting on the library blog. In the future, she adds, the whole role of a librarian could change.

“We’re not sure yet what the future will hold,” says Creedon. “But there are public libraries who have done away with the checkout desk. Staff then go to other aspects of technology, like helping with downloads. We are looking at how technology will change not only what’s in the library, but how the staff is equipped to serve.”

When asked where in relation to other libraries John Jermain stands on the technology front, Creedon smiles.

“We’re not cutting-edge,” she admits, “but we are definitely early adopters. We have the benefit of a community that is intimately involved. Also because of the building project, we are on the lookout for things we might want to adopt. And we’re small enough to be able to experiment without a lot of investment. One or two iPads in the children’s room is easy to implement on an experimental basis, and we’re always willing to give it a try.”

Library Hopes to Grow its Endowment

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web_Cathy Creedon-JJML 2-8-12_1212

For several years now, the focus of the John Jermain Memorial Library’s Board (JJML) of Trustees has been to ensure that the restoration and expansion of the historic Main Street library is fully funded in anticipation of its 2013 opening.

While still dedicated to that effort, the library’s board and its director, Catherine Creedon, are also committed to building upon the endowment first levied by the library’s benefactress Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage. The goal of this effort is to ensure the library is sustainable and presents as little a tax burden as possible on residents for years to come.

During a JJML board of trustees meeting on January 15, board members emphasized their commitment to building the library’s endowment. The board also expressed a commitment to continue fundraising for additional monies beyond $10 million the library received via a public referendum for the expansion and restoration of the over 100-year-old library.

In 2009, voters in the Sag Harbor School District overwhelmingly agreed to spend the $10 million over 20 years towards the project. The expansion — modern in design — will nearly double the size of the building and preserve the history of the original building as well as historical documents specific to Sag Harbor in a new climate controlled history room.

The expansion will also allow the library to expand programming space, dedicate larger spaces to children and young adults, improve technology services and be handicap accessible on all three floors for the first time in its history.

When the referendum was passed, Creedon promised to raise, independently, an additional $2 million towards the expansion. Since a review process to get the library project approved by the village boards and the Suffolk County Health Department, her hopes for donations is now between $2.5 million and $3 million.

Last week, Creedon said the library has already raised about $1.5 million towards that goal, but hopes to also focus its efforts on building JJML’s endowment in order to ensure its future. This is particularly important as school districts, municipalities and even libraries are increasingly finding the need to cut back on the amount of funding in their budget that they seek from taxpayers each year.

“When I first interviewed for the position, I said that one of my goals was that any institution, even one that is publicly funded, should be committed to fundraising to ensure the viability and sustainability of the institution,” said Creedon.

The fundraising committee, led by board members like Jackie Brody, Linley Whelan and newcomer Toby Spitz, along with former board member Christiane Neuville, said at the January meeting that this aspect of fundraising would become a focus of their group. Looking for grant funding, in addition to critical private donations will be critical for them to succeed in their mission, noted Neuville.

As a part of the library’s campaign to raise funding around the building project — the library is now fully in the throes of its restoration, with scaffolding covering its façade — the board has created a specific donation for the endowment that will be commemorated on a plaque in the building’s lobby when it reopens.

Along with several other naming opportunities within the library, the board has created the Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage Circle Society, for groups of donors willing to give the library between $5,000 and $10,000 towards buffering its current endowment fund.

“We recognize that even while we fundraise for our capital campaign, the true sustainability of the library comes from being able to draw on the interest of an endowment to offset our costs,” said Creedon.

Mrs. Sage, also known as Mrs. Russell Sage, funded the library’s construction in honor of her grandfather Major John Jermain at a cost of $92,000. She also endowed the library with around $160,000, which the library has kept throughout its 100-years drawing on the interest the money has collected for programming and operating costs.

Last week, Creedon said she was not looking at a final fiscal goal for the endowment, but that raising that money, as opposed to funds for the building project, is in recognition that JJML is much greater than the building project residents have been focused on for decades.

“In our commitment to this community, we need to recognize that we need to be sustainable for another 100 years,” said Creedon.

Creedon said she also recognizes that with the growth in technology, the library’s role and its services are evolving and JJML must keep up.

As tablets and digital readers gain in popularity, Creedon said she is challenged to think outside the traditional box of viewing a library as a repository for books. Areas for DVDs and compact discs are being created with removable shelves, so should those readers become the primary viewing source for those formats the library will be able to continually adapt.

“Digital circulation is up 400 percent,” she said. “We need to make sure the library is in a position to respond to those changes.”

The library is beginning to circulate e-readers and will purchase two iPads for the children’s department, said Creedon, as many parents are using the technology as teaching tools. A hearing loop system for the hearing impaired — making the whole of the new library amplified for those with proper hearing aids — and a dedicated room for digital music and film projects is also planned for the new building.

The cost of these kinds of changes, said Creedon, are expenses she would like to see covered by the interest of an endowment in the future, rather than leave the library in a position of having to cut services to keep the overall cost of the library at a minimum for taxpayers.

In fact, once the building project is completed, Creedon said she would like the library’s annual appeal to be designated specifically for the endowment fund. Traditionally those monies have been used to offset the operating cost of the library.

“But ultimately, we have a commitment to our community to make this library as sustainable as possible,” said Creedon. “In our 2013 annual appeal letter, I hope to start a discussion about the endowment.”

Weather & Age a Threat to Library Dome

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web galvanicerosion

About two weeks ago, in the technology center of the John Jermain Memorial Library on Main Street, a pipe burst around 7 p.m., regular business hours, spraying the desk of technology director Eric Cohen and pooling water speckled with bits of metal on the library floor.

Fortunately for Cohen, the library is in the final stages of earning approval to restore and expand its historic facility. In an effort to begin restoration work as quickly as possible, the library has already set up shop in its temporary home on West Water Street, where Cohen sat dry as water rained down in his former office.

The staff of the John Jermain Memorial Library is no stranger to cracks in the walls, buckets collecting water from leaks in the ceiling, the dripping keeping time while a nearby English as a Second Language class commences. Last September, in the wake of Hurricane Earl, library director Catherine Creedon’s world literally came crashing down around her, as the ceiling of an alcove window on the staircase leading to the third floor rotunda began breaking into pieces around her as she climbed the stairs, already having secured plastic sheeting around book stacks and removing valuable historic documents from the library’s history room earlier that morning.

However, following a June marked by storms and rain, the impact weather and age has had on the 101-year-old library has grown at what Creedon calls an “exponential rate.”

Walking through the library earlier this week, the evidence is jarring: plaster wet and crumbling at the slightest touch on portions of all three floors of the library building. Cohen’s office is waterlogged, albeit repaired for now, small pieces of metal that gathered in a pipe and clogged it causing it to finally erupt are strewn around the room.

“The force was enough to blow across the room,” said Creedon. “And we have staff normally working in this area.”

The alcove window that almost took down Creedon while she attempted to protect art that traditionally has hung in the third floor staircase, no longer has plaster sheathing the ceiling, and water damage is visible around the window alcove, slowly spreading. A new leak has also sprung in the dumbwaiter that used to service all three floors, the rope now a dark green color and even after a July marked by little rain slightly wet to touch.

While all of those issues are critical, and evidence of a larger problem – that the library roof will not have the drainage to protect the historic building until the library can undergo its renovation – what is most troubling for library board trustee and building and grounds committee chairman Carl Peterson is the damage the water infiltration could have on the library’s Guastavino-designed brick dome.

The John Jermain Memorial Library was designed by Augustus Allen and built in 1910. The dome was constructed by the R. Guastavino Company, which also designed famed domes in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

For the first time the dome, an architectural centerpiece of the third-floor rotunda, is showing signs of water damage on both the interior and exterior brickwork on its southern side. A white efflorescence has begun to spread across the historic bricks, evidence that moisture is creeping into the dome, which Peterson noted would be extremely costly to repair.

On Wednesday, July 20 Peterson delivered this news to the JJML board of trustees at their monthly meeting. Earlier that week, Peterson and Creedon met with the library’s architects, as well as its engineers – Building Conservation Associates – to begin to discuss how the library can aid the situation while awaiting the time it can put a new roof on the library. That aspect of the project is linked to the expansion – the new, glass and masonry library will be connected to the historic library by the roof. The full project, outside of the restoration of brickwork and limestone on the exterior of the building, which was approved by the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board, still needs Suffolk County Health Department approval for a new septic system.

In the meantime, Peterson said the team is looking at several options, including shrink-wrapping the dome, purchasing heavy plastic sheeting and securing it to the dome, building a scaffold and covering the dome or moving the roof portion of the project up in the construction timeframe.

“The jury is still out on how this will play out,” he said. “The entire membrane protecting the roof is crumbling and the drain pipes and crumbling.”

On Tuesday, Peterson said galvanic erosion is largely to blame for water infiltration throughout the building, as well as the closing of two drain pipes on the roof during JJML’s 101-year history.

Galvanic erosion occurs when two dissimilar metals are placed against each other and water is introduced into the mix. Standing on the roof of JJML on Tuesday afternoon, Peterson explained that throughout the library’s history smaller pipes have been fitted into larger pipe holes during repairs, leading to less drainage on the roof, but also the galvanic erosion.

While a stop-gap measure has yet to be decided on, on Tuesday, Creedon said her main focus was gaining approvals from the Suffolk County Health Department, which will meet with the library for a formal review of their application on August 18, as well as final approval from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees.

As Creedon prepared to leave for a meeting of library directors on the impact a proposed two-percent property tax cap could have on local libraries, a perfectly sunny day gave way to dark clouds and wind, and the rain began to pound against the roof of John Jermain Memorial Library once more.

John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Smaller Board of Trustees

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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.

Second Language is Second Nature at John Jermain Memorial Library

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In its first years of existence as Sag Harbor’s community library, John Jermain Memorial Library director Olive Pratt Young offered English as a Second Language for immigrant workers from the Bulova Watchcase Factory, cultivating a foreign language collection that reached 2,000 volumes by 1915. The collection was primarily written in Lithuanian, Polish, German, Italian, Czechoslovakian, Hungarian and French, and at the request of villagers even provided residents a Lithuanian newspaper to thumb through.

“From the first years of the library we were doing this kind of programming and collection development,” said current library director Catherine Creedon.

The library continues its all-inclusive community mission to this day. On Tuesday evenings, JJML hosts a 4 p.m. preparation of naturalization, or the citizenship exam given by the United States government, followed by a two-hour English conversation class, geared towards all nationalities. The programs are free, in large part, Creedon said this week, because library program director Martha Potter and JJML staffer Aracely Garcia are willing to lend their time to the cause, along with volunteers from the community.

A public school teacher in Brooklyn and Northern Westchester for 30 years, Potter came to JJML with the desire to teach English as a Second Language, in part because of a promise she made to her young students as a school teacher – that in retirement she would give back to the community, as she had often preached to her own pupils. Shortly before BOCES shut down its own ESL program in Sag Harbor two years ago, Potter approached the newly-hired Creedon, who was enthusiastic about the prospect.

While JJML’s courses have benefited immigrants from Central and South America, Potter said the program has also served Moroccan, Russian, Korean, Polish and French immigrants, and after two years has jumped from two students a session to 20 on some Tuesday nights, educating roughly 100 in English language.

“We are very flexible and the classes are very flexible,” said Potter, noting students can come and go, some weekly, others attending the course when work and family obligations allow.

Garcia has lived in Sag Harbor for 16 years, but it was after Creedon was hired in 2007 that she became a part of the JJML family. After years as a patron, Creedon hired Garcia, and since that day, the Guatemalan native has actively tried to engage the Latino community with the library. Finding success, and patronage, throughout the Sag Harbor community, Garcia said the Latino community, in particular, feels a level of comfort at the library, in large part due to the staff who welcome everyone with open arms, and more importantly, valuable resources.

Potter’s naturalization class focuses on United States history and the U.S. Constitution – the backbone of the five to 10 questions, out of 100, immigrants vying to become citizens will be asked during their citizenship exam.

The English Conversation Class is taught by both Garcia and Potter, with Garcia leading the beginners class and Potter handling intermediate to advance students. The classes focus largely on conversation as a means of engaging the students, tackling grammar as they become more comfortable with the language. Childcare, provided by Susan Farrell and Creedon, is also free of charge for students.

“What we need to do is recognize that with true literacy, spoken language is just a part of it,” said Creedon, noting in addition to English language, teaching real literacy involves educating patrons about technology and online resources, how to fill out a job application and a resume. “Literacy is really a spectrum of skills.”

In addition to those skills, JJML also tries to provide as many bi-lingual and multi-lingual resources as possible, including a collection of 120 volumes of literature, as well as DVDs. It also hosts a foreign language database, and a travel information program, Global Road Warrior, that Creedon explores herself to understand the intricacies of the culture of a new patron. Websites like tutor.com, also available at the library, offer GED information, citizenship information, a live tutor and are readily accessible with a library card.

Creedon and Potter dream of having an ongoing children’s bi-lingual reading hour, as well as a GED program for the library as the program expands.

“Aracely is a great gift to us because she understands the challenge of becoming part of a new culture, making a life and having a foot, if not a heart, in two cultures,” said Creedon. “Her gift to this program is what has made the library a comfortable place to come into.”