Michael Garbedian, President of the Board of Trustees addressed the six candidates running for three available spots on JJML’s board of trustees. Photography by Mara Certic.
By Mara Certic
This Monday, September 29, Sag Harbor residents will vote on the John Jermain Memorial Library’s 2015 proposed budget.
The proposed budget is $2,399, 812 which is an increase of $111,367 over the approved 2014 spending plan. Library director Cathy Creedon explained in a budget hearing on Wednesday, September 17 the 5.8-percent increase is predominantly due to the much-anticipated move back into the restored, expanded and refurnished historic library building at 201 Main Street, which is expected to open this spring.
Increases in utility and insurance expenses are expected for the Main Street space, which is four times the size of the library’s temporary home on West Water Street. This accounts for the 5.8-percent increase in this year’s budget, Ms. Creedon said. In addition to requiring more custodial workers for the larger building, Ms. Creedon added that she hopes to find both an adult programming coordinator and a local history librarian to join the JJML staff.
After working closely with school district, Ms. Creedon said it was determined that, if the budget passes, the typical taxpayer will see a $12 increase annually—amounting to just one dollar a month, Ms. Creedon noted.
On Monday, voters will also choose the three new JJML board members. Jackie Brody, Ann Lieber and Toby Spitz’s terms will expire on December 31, 2014. Ms. Spitz decided against seeking another term. Ms. Brody and Ms. Lieber are both seeking re-election along with four other Sag Harborites who have thrown their hats into the ring.
“It’s an embarrassment of riches,” said Michael Garbedian, at a trustee forum last Wednesday evening. Mr. Garbedian currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees; his term will expire next year.
The six candidates attended Wednesday’s forum and discussed the impetuses behind their decisions to run. Before their presentations, Ms. Creedon gave the potential future trustees a few words of wisdom: “You are an ambassador, you are not representative of the public,” she said. “Your allegiance is to the wellbeing of the institution.”
“It was really in this library I learned to love to read,” Ms. Lieber said in the temporary library building at 34 West Water Street on
Wednesday evening. Ms. Lieber, who worked as an English teacher in Indianapolis and as a Temple librarian, spent her summers in Sag Harbor from the age of two onwards. She moved to Sag Harbor full-time in 2004, she said, and now serves as the administrator for The Customs House, directly across the street from the library’s historic Main Street building.
In addition to her work as a trustee, Ms. Lieber is also involved in planning for “One for the Books,” an annual fundraiser for the library, and the weekly book club at JJML. She currently serves on the policy and long-range planning committee and helps with fundraising, she said. She supports the budget as written, she said.
The other incumbent, Ms. Brody, told the story of how she became involved in JJML’s board of trustees. Late in the summer of 2010, Ms. Brody was begged to join the board when there seemed to be no one willing to do the job. This year’s unprecedented interest and competition, she said, is “yet more proof of our success.”
Ms. Brody worked as editor for “Print Collector’s Newsletter” for 25 years and worked as a freelance art critic for about a decade. “I have witnessed the progress made in the historic building,” Ms. Brody said, adding that she has been involved in fundraising activities for the library.
Ann Sutphen also attributes her love for books to JJML. Ms. Sutphen referred to the library as Sag Harbor’s ad hoc community center. A few years ago, Ms. Sutphen sailed from Seattle to Sag Harbor with her husband and daughter. When their three-year journey came to an end and they arrived in the village, the first thing Ms. Sutphen’s daughter asked her was “is the library open?”
Ms. Sutphen’s mother was also a big supporter of JJML, she said. “And when she died my sisters and my step-father and I started Martha Rusk Sutphen Educational Initiative,” she said. She said she is “amazed at the programs the library offers,” but added she hopes the new building will allow for more far-reaching programs. Becoming a board member, she said, would be an obvious next step for her “ongoing relationship with this library.”
Robert Hooke is also vying for one of the vacancies on the JJML’s board. He is a recent full-timer in Sag Harbor but spent all of his summers here, he said. Mr. Hooke has a degree in economics and an MBA, and for many years he has also worked as an artist. He worked in investment banking and is a sculptor, and now owns The Hooke Sculpture Gallery on Main Street in Sag Harbor.
“In my own personal history, one of the things that kept me on an even keel is the fact that I had these two interests. I think people should have something they’re focused on, that they’re interested in, that they can measure their progress against that isn’t a career,” he said on Wednesday. “A lot of problems with younger people stem from boredom,” Mr. Hooke noted, as he discussed work he does to help young men and women complete their education.
Mr. Hooke also donated a collection of 210 books of “sea fiction” to the library when he first moved back to the village.
Susie Sabin has decided to run for the board this year, she said, because now that her youngest child has entered kindergarten she can “finally see through the fog.” Ms. Sabin, who has four children in the Sag Harbor School District, moved here eight years ago.
If elected, she hopes to be a liaison between the library and the schools, she said. “I feel like not a lot of parents out there know what is offered here,” she said. “There’s so much. I would like to come on board and help that word get spread.”
Ms. Sabin’s youngest, Ava, is in the same grade as Irina Kercheval – whose father Caleb is the sixth person running for the three board positions. Mr. Kercheval wants said he wants to be on the library board to ensure “libraries are still around.” Mr. Kercheval, the child of publishers, has a background in IT. “Although I’m a proponent to technology, I don’t want to lose the libraries,” he said.
Mr. Kercheval said one of his fondest memories was spending a week break from school writing a research paper in the New York Public Library. “I think today not a lot of people go to the library as much,” he said. “I see how the reading of books has changed.”
“You downplayed what you bring to the library, you guys are awesome,” Ms. Creedon said to the six running when they finished their presentations.
“Even if you are not elected to the board, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to contribute in some way,” Mr. Garbedian said. “I’m incredibly proud to sit here in front of you. And know that it’s not perfunctory or gratuitous comments. We would be absolutely proud and tickled pink to have you serve on the board.“
The library trustee election and budget vote is Monday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the library’s temporary location at 34 West Water Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit johnjermain.org.