Tag Archive | "Catherine Creedon"

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.”

Mapping Headstones for Curious Historians

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Andrea Meyer’s life was forever changed at the age of 11 when she walked into Sag Harbor’s Old Burying Ground looking for answers and instead found a lifelong passion rooted in archival work and historic preservation.

It was roughly 12 years ago when Meyer walked onto the grounds, looking for information on a long-deceased wife of an original Sag Harbor homeowner, unsatisfied with the answers she found in the history room of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML).


“They had dated the homeowner’s wife at age 11 when she had her first child and being 11 myself I was determined to prove them wrong,” said Meyer on Tuesday. “I was a little stubborn.”

Unwavering in her mission to find the woman’s birth date on her headstone in The Old Burying Ground, Meyer did not find exactly what she was looking for, but instead literally stumbled into a tour organized by members of The Old Burying Ground Committee. Meyer has been involved with the committee, and its numerous projects to preserve and archive the ancient burial site, ever since.

The newest initiative by the committee will be a joint venture with JJML, where Meyer recently worked as an intern, on break from her studies at CW Post and New York University’s archival studies program. According to library director Catherine Creedon, the committee and library will team up to archive the burial ground’s numerous headstones on a website which will be linked to JJML’s homepage in an effort to provide research historians and interested parties worldwide the same information now found in Dorothy Ingersoll Zaykowski’s book “The Old Burying Ground.”

For over 150 years, The Old Burying Ground has been a central part of Sag Harbor History, located next to the Sag Harbor First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church, although the grounds existed long before that church was erected.

According to “The Old Burying Ground,” the cemetery has been in use since the mid-1700s, a central burial ground for village residents until the mid-1800s when gravesites became hard to come by. Since that time, several committees have formed to preserve the historic resting place with several inventories of the headstones and restoration projects tackled over the years. In 1997, the latest committee was formed completing the last inventory and restoring parts of the 100-year old fence, part of which is still in disrepair as the village looks for funding to restore it.

While the history of the burial ground is well-recorded in Zaykowski’s book, Creedon said she would like to see that information available to a greater number of people as the historic village library embraces a new age of technology.

“The goal would be to make this available beyond the book or the history room,” said Meyer. “To make it available to people who live outside of Sag Harbor, or can’t get to the history room while it is open.”

“It was collaborative,” said Creedon of the decision to take on such a project. Creedon had been in discussions with Susan Rowland, a member of the Old Burying Ground Committee, for several months on a project the library and committee could focus on together.

“I am always interested in the library working with local groups to share information and exchange ideas,” said Creedon. “A couple of weeks ago we shared some rough ideas about programming and decided at this point this would be the best project the library could help facilitate.”

According to Creedon, the committee will focus on taking photographs of each headstone and matching it to a map, originally drawn by Zaykowski as a part of an inventory project conducted by the committee with member Steven Peters. A narrative will be developed to correspond with each headstone, said Creedon, who said she hopes to create a website that enables people to search a virtual database of headstones at The Old Burying Ground using keywords.

“This will have at least two great results,” said Creedon. “One is the headstone’s print is becoming less and less readable, so this will be important documentation for future scholars and those interested in local genealogy. Secondly, it will allow us to disseminate this information worldwide. We get lots of requests for this kind of information and now those people can do a through search for that information on their own.”

Creedon said this is exactly the kind of work JJML should be engaged in, and following a years long focus on the library’s building project, she is pleased to concentrate on this kind of work again.

“It is the best combination of things to me,” said Creedon. “It is the classic commitment of a library to preserve our local heritage and combine that with a new technology. For me, this is a gift and a joy to take on. I am excited about the building project, but it is nice to remember the building is just a receptacle for projects like this.”

Creedon said it is her hope this is one of several new projects connecting the library to its community and embracing new technology as a means of sharing information and resources.

“This project is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing commitment to digitizing local resources, which makes them more widely available, preserves them and lessens the amount of damage done to original historic documents,” said Creedon. “A headstone is not the best example of this, but if I have an archival, physical object in the library, if someone is interested in it purely for its content in this medium no one is touching the page, exposing it to light, water or the grease on someone’s fingers. It is just as good without the potential for damaging the original.”

Creedon said the hope of the committee is to complete the photography of the headstones this fall and over the winter develop the website with the library’s technical director Eric Cohen.

“I think it would be really fun to link the site to a You Tube video with Dot [Zaykowski] or Susan [Rowland] talking about the Burying Ground so someone coming into it from the outside would have a better understanding of what it means, the burial ground’s place in our community.”

“I would really love to have something on a website where people can go and basically take a virtual cemetery tour with information on different gravesites popping up,” said Meyer. “Kind of like Google Streetview, but for the cemetery.”

And for Meyer, working with the committee to continue the preservation of The Old Burying Ground will remain a lifelong priority. Meyer, who is in the midst of earning her masters degree at NYU and is studying public history and archives, credits her involvement with the committee as the impetus for her professional pursuits.

“I was telling my roommate this morning that I started out as an undergrad in historic preservation because of the graveyard, but I was told graveyards were an exception to the National Historic Trust, so I decided I was quitting that major,” said Meyer.

“The goal has always been to come back,” Meyer said later. “You never leave Sag Harbor. I have left and have been miserable about having left, but I will be back and forth and I hope I never really, really leave.”

Bond Takes Pressure Off Library Budget

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On Wednesday, July 8 the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) Board of Trustees approved a 4.9 percent increase in spending for the 2010 fiscal year, adopting a $1,068,800 draft budget, which will be floated to voters of the Sag Harbor Union Free School District in September.

On Monday night, the Sag Harbor School Board also approved the spending increase.

The ballot will also ask voters to elect two residents of the school district to the board of trustees. Current trustee Chris Leonard will seek to keep his seat on the board, while longtime board member and president Diane Gaites said on Wednesday she would decline another run for office.

Last month residents in the school district approved an almost $10 million referendum for the restoration and expansion of the historic, Main Street, Sag Harbor library with 83 percent of voters supporting the project, which will almost double the size of the current library. According to JJML Director Catherine Creedon, the passage of the referendum has enabled the board to develop a budget for 2010 with minor spending increases as the board will try and hold off on addressing a number of maintenance issues in the current building that will now be covered by referendum monies.

In fact, on Tuesday, Creedon said she had developed two budgets in anticipation of the referendum vote – if the referendum failed to find support the budget would have shown a sharp increase in spending to cover a number of costs associated with keeping the historic building running, like the replacement of its heating and air systems. Creedon noted a priority in the budget prepared in anticipation of the referendum’s passage was to keep any spending increase below five percent.

“I needed to really look where we could trim without compromising our patrons’ experience at the library,” said Creedon on Tuesday, noting the task was not easily accomplished as circulation at JJML is up 40 percent from two years ago. Costs for basic services like printing and mailing JJML’s newsletter and additional taxes like the state imposed MTA payroll tax have also increased the cost of running the library, but Creedon said she worked with Leonard to try and keep spending down by cutting line items in buildings and grounds, for books and in general material expenses.

“It’s a tight budget, but I felt after the approval of the referendum and given the economy it was the moderate course of action to take,” said Creedon to the board last Wednesday. “If the board thinks it is not high enough, we can rewrite it.”

One area that Creedon has cut drastically was for buildings and grounds expenses, which are proposed to cost $23,190 in 2010, while $40,800 was budgeted in 2009. Almost all of the cuts were made in building repairs and maintenance, for which Creedon budgeted $12,000 in the 2010 fiscal year, an $18,000 decrease in spending from last year’s budget.

A number of board members expressed reservations about the cuts, in particular because the library has been operating with a furnace that could give out in the next year before the new library project has received a building permit from the Village of Sag Harbor.

“We just squeaked by this winter and we will have to squeak by another,” said board member Nancy Hallock.

The board briefly discussed raising the figure to $20,000, but Creedon said that would result in presenting district voters a budget showing a 5.7 percent increase – not something she was inclined to do.

Board member Craig Rhodes said if the furnace did give out, the library could explore renting a portable furnace on a tractor trailer to see the library through until the new building project begins – an idea embraced by the rest of the board.

“My inclination is to go with the budget that Cathy has presented,” said board member Carl Peterson. “Again, we have to cross our fingers, but if something does happen I think we will be able to find a way to address it.”

“I know it is playing Russian roulette at this point,” agreed board vice president Christiane Neuville. “But it is a bare bones budget.”

The board was unanimous in adopting the 4.9 percent spending increase.

In other library board news, the board briefly debated whether to decrease the number of board members to seven. Currently, the board has nine members, although with the departure of Kate Evarts has been operating as an eight-person board through the referendum process.

Largely divided on the issue, at the end of the debate, the board agreed to keep the board an eight-person panel.

John Jermain Library: Expansion Hopes to Round Out Services

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While much of a close to $10 million referendum the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) has proposed to Sag Harbor School District residents will cover the cost to restore and renovate JJML, as well as bring the historic structure into compliance with state codes, the 7,000 square-foot, three-story addition will also enable the library to almost double in size.

The expansion itself will cost roughly $2.5 million with the library board seeking close to $10 million from district voters on Monday, June 29. Some of the actual expansion itself, explained library director Catherine Creedon, will enable the library to meet state codes with the installation of an elevator, a second set of stairs — both mandated by the state — as well as room for a new heating and air conditioning system. However, the expansion will also enable the library to increase services to children, teens and the community at large through the creation of expanded program spaces, a climate controlled archive, a dedicated area for children and teens, a business center and a contemplative reading and study area in the third floor rotunda.

The ground floor of the addition will boast a community room, which can be sealed off from the rest of JJML, enabling the library to allow community groups to host gatherings there without having to staff the whole of the library, noted Creedon.

“As you know, there is no civic center in Sag Harbor and we do get a lot of requests to use the library,” said the director. “This meeting space will be available to those groups.”

The expansion also enables the ground floor of the library to host almost exclusively the children’s and teen collections and services. Creedon said this was planned to allow easier access for parents through the Jefferson Street entrance, which will be equipped with a storage area for strollers. The timing of the referendum, added Creedon, happens to coincide with a spike in circulation in the children’s collection.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in circulation in the children’s collection in the last few months,” she said. “While we have seen a steady increase in all areas over the past year, last month circulation of our children’s books was up 24 percent over May a year ago, and that was even before it started raining so much. I know the statistics for June will be off the chart.”

Creedon says she has seen more patrons across the board at JJML, which she attributes, in part, to the sagging economy.

“But I think once that heavy reading habit kicks in, people turn to it in other times as well when they see how enjoyable an experience it can be,” she said.

Creedon added the teen area of the ground floor has been designed with their library habits in mind, lending to a social environment where groups of teenagers can read, research and work on homework together.

“They tend to use our resources in a more social way,” explained Creedon. “They tend to do homework in groups, they tend to discuss the material they are reading more than adults and children. Reading is a social activity to them – they all want to read the same thing at once.”

On the second floor, plans call for a business center to be added to the library, which will offer a free fax, a free scanner, copy machines and large-scale computers. Creedon said the space was vital as many residents are turning to the library to provide these resources, particularly in tough economic times when many may not be able to afford the technology to further themselves professionally.

The business center will be adjacent to a computer kiosk, which will be surrounded by the library’s multimedia collection. Staff offices, virtually non-existent at the current JJML, are also proposed for the second story, as is gallery space next to expanded spaces for new books and adult fiction.

The third floor of the library, in addition to increasing space for adult non-fiction, offering a reference and periodical area, will be devoted to a climate controlled archive and contemplative reading space, which Creedon said was the original vision for the rotunda at JJML.

The archive is one of the aspects of the building plan Creedon is most excited about.

“We have a wonderful collection of historic documents of Sag Harbor that are in danger of being lost,” she explained. The documents, which range from a second edition Algonquin Language Bible – the first collection of Bibles printed in the United States – to the sketchbook and collection of William Wallace Tooker, as well as scrapbooks, photographs and newspapers recounting the village’s history, are currently held in conditions unfavorable to long term preservation, said Creedon. The expansion would create a climate and light controlled space for the collection, and enable the library to begin collecting more historic documents for preservation.

The plan is to return the rotunda to its original use, as a contemplative study space, said Creedon.

“We are anticipating the aura and silence of the New York Public Library reading room and it will be just as beautiful,” she said. The library has kept much of the original furniture for the rotunda and will return the space to its original floor plan, complete with a working fireplace.

“I picture it as a gathering space for the community, but in a different way,” said Creedon. “It will be a place to gather together and be solitary.”

While Creedon has a desire to see the referendum plan come to pass, she said on Tuesday, no matter what the outcome, she has been impressed with the support the Sag Harbor community has shown the library in anticipation of Monday’s vote.

“People care about the cultural life of the community they live in, and seeing that has been a wonderful experience,” said Creedon. “It has been great to discuss the deeper essence of what a library means to a community. Even if this doesn’t go through, the process has been very positive for me. I would recommend to any new library director, that they try and get out into their community and get outside the walls of the library to understand the presence their institution has on the community as a whole.”

The referendum vote takes place at JJML (201 Main Street, Sag Harbor) from noon to 8 p.m. on Monday, June 29.

John Jermain Library: Restoration Dominated by Repairs

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Next Monday, June 29, residents of the Sag Harbor School District will vote on whether to approve a close to $10 million renovation and expansion plan at the historic John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML), with almost 70 percent of the funding going towards repair of the building’s sagging façade, leaky roof and bringing the structure into compliance with the state’s building code and standards for public buildings.

According to JJML Director Catherine Creedon, of the $9,987,500 the library board is asking residents to approve for the project, roughly $5 million will be earmarked for the repair and restoration of the existing building. An additional $2.2 million will cover the installation of a new HVAC system and bring the building to code and in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act with the construction of an elevator and handicap accessible bathrooms. The remaining $2.5 million will cover the 7,000-square-foot expansion, which will nearly double the size of the existing library.

Should the referendum pass, Creedon said the 20-year bond the library would seek, with projected interest rates between 4.9 and 5.25 percent, will cost a district family living in a home valued at $750,000 between $93 and $97 per year, or about 25 cents a day.

According to Creedon, the library is at a crossroads when it comes to repairs needed at the nearly 100-year-old building, which she believes will only get worse as time goes by, eventually becoming too costly to restore.

“The façade of the building and the exterior has a couple major issues,” explained Creedon, noting the brickwork is loose in areas, and the north and northeast side of the building has sustained water damage due to prevailing winds. Additionally, the limestone cornice is damaged, Creedon said, primarily due to a cycle of freezing temperatures.

“I actually have three pieces of it in my office,” said Creedon, adding the library was forced to shroud the structure in scaffolding in November of 2006 to ensure pieces of the cornice would not fall off and injure library patrons.

Window frames, particularly on the north side, are also in dire need of repair, said Creedon, suffering water damage.

If passed, the referendum would also fund the repair of JJML’s roof, which currently leaks at such a rate that Creedon said she often spends rainy days emptying buckets of rainfall, collected in the third floor rotunda.

“The roof is flat and there is a parapet, so it acts almost like a kiddie pool – water just collects there,” said Creedon. Originally, JJML was constructed with eight roof drains with rubber flashing, but over the years, she said, the flashing has deteriorated and in some cases rotted out. Whole drainage pipes, she added, have been blocked over the years, not draining as well as they were intended to, leading to pooling of water on the library’s roof, causing leakage throughout the library.

Since the drains empty into the library’s cesspool, Creedon said, with heavy rain, the library’s system is at risk to back up. It is expected to receive an upgrade should the referendum vote pass

“I tend to be really on top of having the cesspool pumped, especially in weather like we have been having this June,” said Creedon.

Exterior issues, which are damaging the historic façade of JJML, said Creedon, translate into interior concerns, including the sagging of the skylight in the third floor rotunda. During the heavy rains the region has faced through late spring into early summer, Creedon said she watched leaking through the skylight become heavier than in years past.

“That is of great concern to me and the staff,” said Creedon. “I think we are at a point right now with the water damage issues where it needs to be addressed now — in a year or two it will be too late.”

Otherwise, the building is “remarkably solid” for its 100-year lifespan, down to some of the original furniture commissioned for the library, which was a gift from Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage in 1910.

Outside of restoration, JJML has been operating largely without complying with either state building codes, state standards for public spaces and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Once the library begins any renovation project, it will need to come under compliance, which will cost roughly $2.2 million.

The upgrade project includes installation of a sprinkler system, required for any public building in New York, as well as the replacement of an electrical system Creedon said was “grossly out of date.”

The heating system is also in dire need of replacement, said Creedon, failing to heat the third floor of the library at all and only minimally heating the first two floors of the building.

“And our lighting does not meet standards for New York State Public Libraries,” said Creedon. “It’s inefficient, and most pronounced on the ground floor.”

To comply with ADA, the referendum would cover the installation of an elevator, providing handicap patrons with access to the whole of JJML, as well as a second stairway.

If the referendum fails to gain community support, Creedon said these repairs are at such a critical point, that some will have to be made one way or another and likely through an increase in the library’s annual operating budget, which she predicted the board would be able to maintain with a slight tax increase if the referendum passes.

“If this fails, we will need to write in a significant amount of money for immediate and necessary repairs, including the purchase of a new boiler system,” she said. “It is just not safe the way it is presently hooked up.”

Despite the current state of the building, and the lack of space as a whole, Creedon said she and her staff remain resilient and upbeat, even during cold winter mornings.

“I am really struck by, in all my years of work in public libraries, how wonderfully close we all are,” she said. “For a lot of us, we are able to look at the referendum vote during days when we didn’t have heat on the third floor, and say in one or two years we will be able to address this.”

Literary Moxie: Student Awarded for Love of Information

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On Catherine Creedon’s first day of graduate school in library sciences her professor asked the class why each of them were there and why had they chosen this field. Flinging her hands up with the rest of the class, Creedon was not chosen. Rather, a quiet girl sitting near the back of the room was selected, whispering, “Because I like books” – the same answer Creedon would have uttered if she had been called upon.

Her professor was unimpressed, Creedon remembered, knowing that, rather than merely being a reader, a librarian should be an activist who seeks to share the knowledge derived from books with those around him or her.

Now the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) in Sag Harbor, Creedon sees much of herself in Pierson High School senior Kristen Fisher, who was nominated by the library and won the 2009 Nassau and Suffolk County Library associations Bringing Excellence in Service by Teens (BEST) Award. The honor was announced two weeks ago, and in addition to a plaque, the Sag Harbor teen received a $150 award, which she intends to use towards purchasing a laptop for college.

According to Creedon, it was Fisher’s innate understanding of the power of literature that made her the perfect candidate for the nomination.

“Kristen already knows what it took time for me to learn: a love of knowledge is meaningless unless it is shared and used as a tool for improving the world,” said Creedon in her nominating letter.

A volunteer at JJML since 2005, Fisher is also employed at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton and plans on pursuing publishing or library sciences as a student at the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo in the fall. This year’s Pierson salutatorian remembers shelving books, DVDs and CDs when she was in middle school, just to pass the time, while her mother Donna Fisher worked the circulation desk at JJML.

“I did whatever I could there,” Fisher said on Tuesday. “I used to go there right after school, so I got used to helping out.”

It was only because of her mother’s employment at JJML that Fisher looked to the Hampton Library for employment when she turned 14, helping at the circulation desk, during story time, and offering support for children’s programming. Fisher said she hopes to keep the job during breaks from college.

The founder of the young adult book club, most recently Fisher led a group that has been editing young adult novels in manuscript form for a Manhattan book agent. According to Creedon, the group has already worked their way through two manuscripts and will begin their third this summer.

“We started that this past January and it was really fun,” said Fisher. “The fact that I got to read something before anyone else did was so cool. I liked editing things – seeing what worked, what didn’t work. I enjoyed just working through it.”

The senior is not your average, “Twilight” obsessed reader, opting instead for classics like Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” E.M. Forester’s “A Room With a View” and Edith Wharton’s “Summer.”

Fisher is excited to be Pierson’s salutatorian, but the modest student admits that, like this award, it was unexpected.

“It does feel great,” Fisher said. “I just kind of went through school doing the best I can, but I didn’t expect any of this. I just did the work, and thought I did okay.”

Creedon is less modest about Fisher’s accomplishments.

“She has really brought a lot of kids into this library and made sure programs she was involved with have continued,” said Creedon on Tuesday. “It is not just that she comes up with these ideas, but she really follows through.”


In other JJML news, at the Wednesday, May 20 library meeting, the board discussed the then-upcoming meeting, scheduled for last night, with the Sag Harbor Village planning board, zoning board of appeals and historic preservation and architectural review board. According to Creedon, the meeting was conceived as a way to provide the boards with an informal presentation on the library’s expansion plan.

In the beginning of May, the library board of trustees proposed a nearly $10 million expansion plan of the current building which will need to meet the approval of voters in the Sag Harbor Unified School District on June 29. The referendum will provide monies not only for a 7,000 square-foot expansion on the site of the current Main Street, Sag Harbor library, but will also provide funding for repairs and maintenance of the aging facility.

The project, if approved by voters, will need to go through village review and the May 27 meeting was called to highlight issues the board may need to tackle during that process, including what variances will be required by the village zoning board of appeals.

Creedon will also attend a Sag Harbor School Board meeting in June, as well as meetings with the AARP, the PTA, the PTSA and the Noyac Civic Council in an attempt to educate the community about the library’s plan and goals.

During the May 20 meeting, Creedon also disclosed that she has personally pledged to the board that she will raise $2 million – in addition to the close to $10 million referendum – for the expansion project through donors willing to make large contributions, as well as community members of more modest means willing to donate a commemorative piece of blue stone for a planned pavilion on Jefferson Street or those seeking to name a chair after a loved one.

Creedon has also applied for a number of grants, including economic stimulus monies, she hopes will come through in August.



Library Nixes Building By Park, Expand Historic Building Instead

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The John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) Board of Trustees announced on Wednesday night that it would not seek to build a second library at Mashashimuet Park, and instead presented an almost $10 million restoration and expansion plan at the existing Main Street, Sag Harbor library.

“The board is going to go forward with a plan that only encompasses the restoration and expansion of our building at 201 Main Street,” said JJML Director Catherine Creedon on Tuesday. Creedon said the board would ask residents of the Sag Harbor Union Free School District to approve a $9,987,500 referendum for the project on June 29.

The board will look for a 20-year-bond, and has already seen three proposals from lenders quoting interest rates between 4.9 and 5.25 percent. Using a conservative 5.5 percent interest rate estimate, Creedon said a family living in a Southampton home valued at $750,000 would pay approximately $97.50 per year, with a comparable home in East Hampton paying $93.50 if the project is approved at the polls.

Fifty-two percent of the monies will cover the restoration of the historic library, with 26 percent of the price tag covering code compliance, safety, American with Disabilities Act compliance and handicap accessibility at JJML, which the library must complete by law. The balance, said Creedon, will cover the expansion of the library, which will be constructed at the rear of the building.

The expansion would almost double the space of the existing 7,500 square foot building, with roughly 7,000 square feet of additional space planned.

“More than half of that expansion will be for code compliance, safety and handicap accessibility, including a second stairway we are required to construct by law, an elevator and a new HVAC system,” said Creedon.

“It’s beautiful,” said Creedon of the expansion plan.

The ground floor will boast a meeting room with an independent entrance, allowing the library to host programming after-hours with minimal staff to keep costs low. An art gallery area has been layered into the computer lab on the second floor, which will also have an additional reading room. A climate controlled archival space is planned for the third floor, which will enable library staff to preserve documents related to Sag Harbor history — something Creedon noted has been near impossible under the library’s current conditions.

She is particularly excited about the third floor rotunda, which will be restored with its original furniture to its traditional use as “a contemplative space for scholars and researchers.”

“The dome will be restored, no leaks,” said Creedon.

Despite a community library committee report detailing the need for a second library at the park, according to Creedon, a number of factors including the cost of the project in a struggling economy, led the board to the decision to keep the project at JJML.

“This was a very long decision making process,” said Creedon on Tuesday. “The piece of property at 435 Main Street [next to Mashashimuet Park] offered us the potential of a 6,000 square foot building with an additional 31 parking spaces. It would have cost $6 million just for the building.”

Creedon said an additional $1 million would have been necessary for land acquisition, closing costs, survey work and for the Pine Barren credits the library would have had to pay for in order to construct a cesspool at the site.

“The second factor is that piece of property is more environmentally sensitive,” said Creedon, noting it is not only next to Mashashimuet Park, but also the Long Pond Greenbelt. Any building project there would have been subject to a State Environmental Quality Review [SEQR], which would have been administered by the Village of Sag Harbor. In order to initiate that permit process, the library would need to submit complete plans to the village planning board, which they will be unable to fund until the referendum has passed. A lengthy SEQR process could also put a project years in the making on the back burner – something the board does not want to see, said Creedon, as it finally has a project that seems to be moving forward.

“We did not want to hold up an expansion of the library for this community based on a SEQR review,” said Creedon.

Lastly, the building at the park, which Creedon said was “unbelievably beautiful,” boasting an art gallery, computer lab, reading areas and state-of-the-art archival center, would have almost doubled JJML’s annual operating budget.

“We would have required seven new staff members to run the building, including a custodian,” she said. “That amounts to almost a half-of-a-million dollars a year. So on top of our budget and on top of a referendum, we would have been asking for a 50 percent increase in our annual operating budget.”

“This is really a bare bones budget,” said Creedon of the referendum plan. “Anything that seemed extra we have set aside with the commitment that we will fundraise for those things. This will accomplish the restoration of the building and a necessary expansion.”

Creedon has already begun to initiate fundraising discussions and has started applying for a series of grants including an economic stimulus grant from the federal government. JJML’s request has already made it through the first round. Creedon will also seek a construction grant from the state and has received a $1,000 grant that has enabled her to hire two interns for the summer to begin archival work at JJML.

All of this, noted Creedon, comes as the library continues to see more and more residents take advantage of its programming. This weekend alone, close to 200 people turned out for events including “Voices of Sag Harbor,” a “Cool Tunes for Kids” concert and a Library of Congress program, “Reconstructing the Library of Thomas Jefferson.”

“This weekend, to work at the library, it just really felt wonderful,” she said. 


John Jermain Attempts to Balance Expansion With the Economy

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The John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) Board of Trustees has scheduled a public referendum in June to ask district residents for a second time to approve a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion plan. But with the reality of a troubled economy on the board’s mind, it appears they will float a scaled back expansion plan at the existing library, and may offer voters a choice on whether they would like a second library near Mashashimuet Park.

“There really is broad support for the library right now,” said JJML director Catherine Creedon on Tuesday. “We are being used extensively, but in the community interaction we have had, it has become clear people are concerned about the economy and the board would not want to risk a referendum that would fail.”

Five years ago the library failed to gain voter approval for an $8 million expansion plan that included a new library at a triangle shaped property owned by the library near Mashashimuet Park. Since then, the library and its board has undergone a series of changes, with Creedon stepping in as the new director a year-and-a-half ago — around the same time the board abandoned a local architecture firm it had been working with and started again from scratch. A new round of community meetings was held, first to select Newman Architects of New Haven, Conn. to design the project, and secondly to discern what the community wants and needs in a library.

On Monday, April 20, the board gathered in the rotunda at JJML to offer a “progress report” on draft concepts they will use in coming weeks to construct a final plan and cost analysis. The board was expected to meet in executive session on Wednesday night to discuss the community’s reaction to the presentation. On Wednesday, May 6, the final proposal and price tag will be unveiled and the referendum has been scheduled for June 29.

Draft plans unveiled on Monday show an expansion on the rear of JJML, which according to Creedon would accommodate program space, offices and space for the library’s collection. By law, the library would also need to be brought up to code, American with Disabilities Act compliance and meet New York State standards for libraries, which involves repairs and maintenance on the historic structure, addressing an antiquated heating and air system and the addition of a second staircase and elevator.

Victor Conseco, of Sandpebble Builders, which is developing the cost analysis of the plan, showed slides of the existing library which painted a grim portrait of a building in need of a new roof, plaster, masonry, windows, as well as space for collections, new media and offices. According to Conseco, the ventilation in the library is so poor that half way through his presentation a portable carbon dioxide monitor showed levels exceeding what would be considered a healthy standard.

A three-story expansion at the existing library, according to Creedon, could range anywhere from 2,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet of additional space depending on the direction the board chooses to take.

Creedon also showed preliminary plans for a second building at Mashashimuet Park. If approved by voters, this building would house a state-of-the-art archival facility to protect what the director noted are historic documents at risk in the existing library due to humidity and temperature control issues. The park library would also boast rooms which Creedon said could be used for both library and community programs, as well as reading spaces and a computer lab. Periodicals would also be housed at the Mashashimuet Park site. Thirty to 36 parking spaces would be created to accommodate visitors.

The concept of separating services at the library revolves around the idea that JJML currently brings in families, and keeping children and adult collections together is a way to ensure that multi-generational activity continues.

According to Conseco, who declined to throw out estimated figures on the cost of either project, if the referendum is approved in June the design and planning phase of the project would run through much of 2010, with construction beginning that fall. The library project is not estimated to be complete until mid-2012.

Creedon said on Tuesday that despite the board’s commitment to the long-term master plan that called for a large expansion in order to accommodate current services, she believes they will move forward with either a conditional referendum or a phased referendum.

In a conditional referendum, residents would be asked to vote on whether the library should move forward with the necessary repairs at the existing library as well as an expansion to that facility. Residents could select a second option where they could elect to have the second library at the park built in addition to the work at the existing library. The third choice would be to do nothing at all.

A phased referendum would only seek to have work done at JJML with a modest expansion.

“To bring this building up to code and to put an addition on would allow myself and my colleagues to run an amazing library for the community,” said Creedon on Tuesday. “We wouldn’t have everything we have at 425 Main Street [the Mashashimuet site], but maybe this is not the era for everything.”

According to Creedon, the board will take the public comments and questions from Monday’s session and a final cost analysis from Conseco into consideration before settling on a final plan to bring to district residents on May 6.

If Monday night’s crowd is any indication, residents are pleased with the direction the board has taken. Rob Calvert thanked the board for delivering a successful range of options for the community to consider.

“I voted no the last time,” said Jackie Brody. “That was a bad plan. This is a good plan. I think a lot of people who voted no on the last one will vote yes on this one.”

Image below shows draft layout of library building as it could appear on lot adjacent to Mashashimuet Park. Image at bottom shows draft layout of main floor of historic building at 201 Main Street with 3-story expansion at the rear of the building.


East End Digest: February 26, 2009

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Citarella to Open

The former location of the IGA in Bridgehampton will be opening under the name Citarella come April 2009. Citarella considers itself the “ultimate gourmet market.”
Clare Vail, a Southampton Town Planner said that applicant and property owner, Joe Gurrera, submitted an application of expedited review, “a speedy request,” on February 5, 2009.
The planning department held a favorable view and asked the applicant to submit the application on expedited review because there were only going to be minor changes to the building. The application was approved on February 12.
“The applicant wants to spruce up the building, and move the entrance way,” Vail said.
The entrance to the building will be moved to the north east side, from its original location on the west side facing the parking lot, according to the application.
Vail said the applicant wanted to add outdoor seating and improve the parking area – but that would need to undergo a full site plan review at a later date.

Sag Harbor
Library Moves on Building Plans

The John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees continue to work with Newman Architects to develop a library plan that will, in the words of the architects, “serve the Sag Harbor community’s library needs.” During the past weeks a number of firms working in conjunction with Newman have visited both John Jermain and the library’s property at 425 Main Street near Mashashimuet Park.
Philip Steiner, principal from Altieri Sebor and Weber structural engineers, spent January 27 at the library reviewing the mechanical systems, the exterior of the building, and the roof. On February 5, two preservationists, John Glavin and Michele Boyd, from Building Conservation Associates spent 10 hours with the director of the library, Catherine Creedon, touring the building and reviewing the history of John Jermain including photographs, newspapers clippings, blueprints and board reports. It was the third site visit from this firm, headed by Ray Pepi.
On February 13, Deborah McGuinness and Ed Meade, structural engineers for Robert Silman Associates spent the day in Sag Harbor, evaluating both sites with an emphasis on examining the roof, the exterior envelope, the brick wall, existing blueprints, and documentary evidence related to repairs, additions and renovations.
New York State has also proposed an 18% cut in funding to libraries for 2009.

Southampton Town
Interviews for Board Candidates

Southampton Town board members have decided to open an interview process for vacant and holdover positions.
The appointees who serve on the three boards have salaried positions over a specific term of office consistent with state law. Their decision-making powers are exercised by a majority vote of the membership to approve certain types of land use applications.
The Planning Board processes applications for subdivisions, site plans, special exception use permits, lot line modifications, and also renders advisory reports to the Town Board on amendments to the zoning code or requests for changes to the zoning map. The Zoning Board deliberates on requests for variances from zoning strictures on dimensional requirements, changes of use, abandonment proceedings, and appeals of denials or approvals rendered by the Town’s Building Inspector. The Conservation Board processes applications for construction near regulated wetlands areas and prepares advisory reports to the Planning Board and Zoning Board.
Candidates seeking to be considered should send a letter of interest to Supervisor Linda Kabot and members of the Town Board at Southampton Town Hall, 116 Hampton Road, Southampton, NY 11968 prior to February 27.

New York State Assembly
No to Cap

Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., the ranking republican on the Assembly Education Committee, blasted Governor Paterson’s proposal to cap state property tax payments to areas to school districts for state owned lands pursuant to existing state law. Under the Governor’s plan, payments to such areas would be permanently frozen.
The State of New York currently makes property tax payments to certain school districts for state lands. In Riverhead, including Southampton and Brookhaven, the payments are related to the Central Pine Barrens Preserve. Riverhead receives payments for all state alnds within the school district within the Town of Riverhead.
In 2007, Suffolk school district received around $20 million in such payments. A freeze in 2009 will cost these schools nearly $1 million. The freeze would be permanent and apply to all future years.
“There is no doubt that the costs diverted from communities hit by this tax freeze will be borne by local property taxpayers,” Thiele said. “This proposal assumes that school districts will decrease their spending. But the reality is that many districts are struggling in this tough economy.”
“It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility for state government to try and balance its budget on the backs of property owners. If the Governor truly wants to do the right thing for New Yorkers, he would support the swift passge of our ‘New York State Property Act.’ which would put the brakes on ever increasing property taxes and allow families and local eployers to stay in their communities,” Thiele continued.
Thiele said the legislation would prevent school district property tax levies from increasing by more than four percent each year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. It would also provide voters with the ability to override this limitation by a two-thirds majority vote. The initiative also provides significant unfunded mandate relief for school districts.
In other news, Thiele also introduced a comprehensive “home rule” plan to address the issue of school consolidation in the State of New York.
Thiele stated, “Exisitng state law inhibits the consideration of school consolidations. Many times school consolidation is derailed by special interests without even allowing the voters to be heard on the issue. In contrast, the Suozzi Commission has proposed a school consolidation procedure which would be imposed by the state with no local referendum. To be successful, we must first have an objective investigation of each potential consolidation in the state. Second, we must permit local voters the opportunity to evaluate these objectiv investigations and make the decision by referendum.”
Thieles bill includes several provisions. It would require the State Education Department (SED) to identify school districts that might benefit from consolidation. The study would include districts with 1,000 or fewer students and school districts that either share a common boundary with such a district, or school districts that have an existing contract with such a district to educate its students.

Suffolk County

Last week, the Suffolk County United Veterans Project and other local veterans organizations held a press conference to highlight the impact of Governor Paterson’s proposed budget cuts on homeless veterans in Suffolk County.
County Legislator Kate Browning joined the veterans organizations and spoke out against deep cuts to many of New York’s homelessness prevention and assistance programs. She endorsed the Fair Share Tax Reform as an alternative budget solution that can ensure vulnerable veterans continue to get the care they need.
The press conference was part of an ongoing compaign by the Long Island Fair Share Tax Reform Coalition to advocate for a fair budget solution.