Tag Archive | "John Jermain Memorial Library"

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.

John Jermain Memorial Library Looks Towards New Year, New Building

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By Amanda Wyatt; Photography by Michael Heller

The year 2012 was a whirlwind for John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML), but don’t expect it to slow down too much in 2013. In fact, the library is moving full speed ahead with its renovation and expansion during this new year.

Already, scaffolding is being slowly taken down from the historic building, which has been undergoing a massive renovation since last spring. And if all goes according to plan, JJML will be able to break ground on its new, modern addition to the 102-year-old structure later this month.

The multimillion-dollar construction project has been years in the making, and was approved for funding by library district voters in 2010, but as Catherine Creedon, JJML’s director, explained this week, the library really kicked the project into high gear last March.

That was when JJML received its building permit from the Village of Sag Harbor, as well as a construction loan from the Bridgehampton National Bank.

“Those two things really allowed us to begin the project in earnest,” Creedon said.

For Creedon, nine months ago feels more like “a million years ago,” considering all of the work that has been accomplished in such a small amount of time.

The exterior bricks at the historic building have been restored with a new roof currently in the works. The restored stained glass lay light — one of the architectural gems of the library — will also be installed soon.

All of the windows have been restored, and new mahogany storm windows have also been fabricated for the outside of the building. The library’s lighting fixtures, which were originally wired for gas, are being cleaned and rewired by a master craftsperson in Connecticut.

The building’s “crown jewel” — the terracotta dome designed by the R. Guastavino Company and located on the third floor rotunda — has also been restored after a rather anxiety-provoking discovery this summer.

“We took off the old copper dome and it was in very bad shape, corroded in a variety of places, worn very thin and quite grayed out and green,” said Creedon.

But when workers began to take off the terra cotta tiles to replace them, they discovered that the steel compression ring — which went around he base of the dome — had been corroded. As a result, they built a temporary shoring ring which was used until the new compression ring was built.

“We knew we would discover the unexpected, and indeed we did. So that was a time delay and an extra cost,” Creedon said.

“I’ve been told that most of the surprises will be behind us. The old building held a lot of mystery, but the new construction should be a little bit more straightforward,” she added.

But as Creedon noted, the library’s “ongoing priority is to restore and stabilize the historic structure before we break ground [on the new addition], before we do any on-site vibration that could further damage it.”

And while the library’s exterior might be the most visible part of the John Jermain building project, its interior renovation is just as exciting to Creedon.

The library is looking into purchasing small, freestanding charging stations that are solar operated, which Creedon noted will be useful during power outages. These stations would be able to “power up a cell phone, a laptop or an espresso maker — depending on what you feel your critical needs are,” Creedon joked.

Currently, Trunzo Builders, the Wainscott-based company heading the renovation, is finding ways to rewire the historic building to improve wireless communication. Pat Trunzo III said his firm was picking out special floor boxes to be installed on all three floors that would allow for patrons to both charge their laptops and hardwire them to get internet access.

JJML is also planning to put in place a LOOP hearing-amplification system throughout the building for the hearing impaired, as well as computers with specialized voice recognition software, movie and music-editing software and more.

In the new building, there will be less space for DVDs, which Creedon likes to call “the VHS tapes of the very near future.”

The library, said Creedon, is seeing an increase in the number of people asking for help with digital downloads, e-book devices and specialized computer applications.

“We’re really looking at the new space and saying how can the library fulfill its mission of providing information to the community by being a teaching institution, by making sure that if more and more information is available only electronically, that we’ve not only provided access to that information, but we’ve given our community the skills with which to access it. So that has been key as we look at the design of the building,” she said.

“We’re always responding to changes in culture.”

John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Cultural District

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The John Jermain Memorial Library has its eye on a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant for creative placemaking that could lead to the creation of cultural district in the village. The idea would be to connect a group of not-for-profit entities that would be charged with promoting the arts and culture that makes Sag Harbor a special place.

According to Eric Cohen, the library’s technology and multi-media coordinator who is spearheading this initiative, the library intends to apply for the grant in 2014. In order to be successful, the library – which intends to be the lead agent in the application process – needs the support of the Village of Sag Harbor, which must partner with JJML in this endeavor.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Cohen gave a presentation on the grant proposal. He said the library will make formal application to the village later next year as it moves closer to filing its request with the NEA.

While the proposal is still in the conceptual phase and something Cohen said village residents will be asked to weigh in on in a substantive way, at its core is the creation of a Sag Harbor Village Cultural District encompassing geography around five entities – Canio’s Books, JJML, the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, the Sag Harbor Custom House and the Sag Harbor Historical Society.

“The point of the cultural district is an acknowledgement of what already exists in Sag Harbor,” said Cohen Tuesday night. “It is also a mechanism for Sag Harbor’s cultural institutions to work together for the benefit of ourselves and community.”

Cohen said ultimately the idea is to strengthen the community and make it a more desirable place to live, but also the district would serve as an economic engine, attracting more visitors to Sag Harbor specifically because of its arts and culture.

While ideas have yet to be solidified, Cohen said over the course of the next year, joint programming between these not-for-profit organizations will be devised as a first step towards making the cultural district a reality.

The NEA grant, which JJML Director Catherine Creedon discovered while looking at different grant opportunities for the library, is for creative placemaking – a personal passion of Cohen’s.

According to the NEA, in creative placemaking “partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city or region and arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired.”

Grant funding ranges from $25,000 to $200,0000, depending on the project. Cohen said projects within the grant could be as simple as creating a needed dance studio space or sponsoring a series of outdoor art exhibits. Creating a cultural district is also one of the initiatives supported by the grant.

“We want the community to help us plan this together,” said Cohen.

Police Debate Continues

While the Village of Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have made little headway in negotiations for a new police contract, on Tuesday night resident Robert Turner urged the board to find some way to agree to a contract with the PBA and discouraged any discussion about using an outside agency to police Sag Harbor Village.

Turner said one of the reasons he and his wife moved to Sag Harbor was because it had everything they were looking for in a village — including a local police force.

He also suggested that figures detailing salaries of officers and the original 4.5 percent request for a salary increase made by the PBA did not go far enough in showing residents what the actual impact on their taxes would be if that contract was approved.

“What is the assessed value cost in this contract as opposed to the old contract,” he asked.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the last contract was for five years and gave officers over that period a 26 percent increase in pay, with even larger increases for night differentials and longevity.

According to Mayor Gilbride, he expects the contract dispute will likely move to binding arbitration.

In other village news, the board accepted the formal resignation of Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals Chairwoman Gayle Pickering, with regrets, and appointed board member Anton Hagen as the board’s new chairman effective immediately.

The board also accepted the resignation of Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board member Michael Mensch.

In a letter to the village board, Mensch cited personal and professional reasons for his resignation.

“I have enjoyed the position and my fellow members immensely, and hope in the future I can be recommended again,” said Mensch.

Graffiti Whales Descend on Sag Harbor Village

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller, Kathryn G. Menu & Penelope Hope

A rash of graffiti was reported last week to village police, the tags bearing an image most people associate with Sag Harbor — a whale.

According to Sag Harbor Village Police, the department has received a total of five reports of the friendly, smiling whale being tagged on buildings throughout the village.

On Sunday, September 2, the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) on Main Street was defaced with four whales — in neon shades of pink, blue, green and yellow — on plastic sheeting along the scaffolding above the front entrance of the historic library.

The library is in the process of a multi-million renovation and expansion and contractors just recently finished a laborious (and expensive) restoration of the brickwork, mortar and limestone cornice, according to JJML Director Catherine Creedon.

On September 5, a neon blue and green whale, smiling broadly, was discovered on the rear of Apple Bank’s Main Street building. The same day, a neon green whale was found painted beneath the now infamous Larry Rivers’ “Legs” sculpture on the side of Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr’s Madison Street home, although it was quickly painted over.

Not even religious institutions were safe, as the caretaker of the Sag Harbor Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church discovered on the morning of September 8. A more crudely drawn outline of a blue whale was discovered on the west side of the church building facing the Old Burying Ground.

The same day, a white and blue whale was found on the Schiavoni building on Jermain Avenue — that building has been the subject of several tags over the years, according to Sag Harbor Village Police Sergeant Paul Fabiano. Along with that whale was the tag reported last week by police that reads “freedumb.”

All of the whales were painted between two-to-three feet in height with a length of five-to-six feet.

According to Creedon, whose library was the first victim of the graffiti spree, her first concern is for the safety of the artist who had to scale scaffolding and actually move it around in order to accomplish all four whales at JJML.

“The whales were actually installed outside the scaffolding railings,” said Creedon. “My fear is we are going to end up with a local kid who is hurt or injured trying to do something like this.”

Creedon said in addition to a security system at the library, both contractors and police have agreed to increase patrols around the library.

“The community has entrusted us with restoring a building that is a symbol of Sag Harbor and its history,” added Creedon. “We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on restoring the exterior of the original building.”

Creedon said while the graffiti ultimately did not damage the building, if the paint had gotten through the plastic sheeting, the chemicals needed to clean spray paint off the historic brick would degrade that material, a costly and precious loss, she said.

According to Sergeant Fabiano, the department is looking at the tags of graffiti artists they have nabbed in the past, as well as tags found by police departments outside of Sag Harbor.

Sergeant Fabiano said most graffiti work does occur overnight and in this case he expects it could be more than one individual responsible for the unapproved art.

If someone is collared for the graffiti whales in Sag Harbor, Sergeant Fabiano said he or she could face a misdemeanor charge of making graffiti for each defacing. Graffiti made on private property can also carry a charge of trespassing and if someone enters a building there could even be charges of burglary, he said.

Sergeant Fabiano asked that anyone with information about the graffiti contact Sag Harbor Village Police at 725-0247. All calls will be kept confidential.

“And maybe we can put this person or these people to work in the village doing some decent artwork that is approved,” he said.

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.”

Catherine Creedon

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web convo creedon

In advance of her talk for the Sag Harbor Historical Society this weekend, the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library talks about the building project meant to bring Sag Harbor’s library into the 21st century and how the way people are using their local library is changing, and not necessarily in the ways you would guess.

It has been about a year since JJML was given approval to move forward with the restoration of its historic library and now the expansion is also in full swing. Does it even seem real after all of these years?

This has truly been an ever evolving and unfolding process, but for me, I don’t think it ever didn’t seem real. It was exciting that we finally got our permits in place but I always had confidence in this community and the village to see this through to a positive end with the library team. It might have taken longer than we expected, but I have been able to picture this project as a reality for a long time.

Where is the building project at right now?

We are still working on the restoration of the façade and the interior. The stained glass laylight has been removed and out of our first New York State Library Construction Grant we were able to take that laylight apart, clean the glass and re-lead it. That is completed and will be moved back to the library when construction is nearly finished. We also picked out our mortar, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds. It took us four tries to get the historic look we were looking for and we ended up using a local sand rather than one that was manufactured to get there and it is perfect. We are 45 percent done with the re-mortaring, which is being done by hand. We are also working on our dome and we do need to do some additional probe work to see how solid it is and engineer it so it is good for another 100 years. The windows have also been taken out and are being restored.

We expect to break ground on the addition in July, be framed by November and will complete both interiors of the old and new library after that.

Working with a 102-year-old building, how has the library’s architects attempted to highlight the original building with an addition that nearly doubles the size of JJML?

Visually, the new addition is actually a few square-feet bigger than the existing building, but it sits lower, below the limestone cornice. It is an airy building, shadowed. It visually recedes from the historic building. The end of that addition is also of the scale, size and height of the residences that line Jefferson and Union streets, so from Main Street it should almost read as two additional structures behind our library, blending into the surrounding community.

Aesthetics aside, just as architecture has changed, so has the use of libraries. As a life long librarian how are we using libraries in this day-and-age?

I think that is one of the most exciting things about the building project and what I want to talk about at the Saturday lecture is this could not have come at a better time for the people of Sag Harbor. While in our temporary space, we have been learning a lot about how people use the library in Sag Harbor. We have taken that knowledge and incorporated it into how the interior of our new library is being developed.

What changes have you seen?

First, there is the obvious shift from print to electronic media, but there is a general openness to understand information comes in a variety of different forms and one of the most popular formats at the library has been face-to-face instruction. In March and April of 2011, we had 211 people use our programs. In 2012 over 500 people used our programs over the same period and we are in a smaller space. We showed the movie “Forks Over Knives” and we had 46 people come to that public showing because I think there is a real interest in the community in terms of looking at the library as a place for public discourse. Even though this movie could have been checked out, people felt it was a topic best understood in conversation with others.

How has that changed the building project?

We have gone back to the architects and made the back wall of a meeting room a NanaWall that can be pulled back to open that area up to the lobby for larger gatherings. A staff and storage area has been converted into a content creation lab with voice recognition software, movie and music editing tools and my dream is to have a 3-D printer. Another big thing we are seeing and trying to incorporate is that traditionally libraries served individuals, but we are a larger part of the Sag Harbor community. So we are trying to develop programming for business owners, looking into collaborative programming like this talk, working with GeekHampton on technology related programming and partnering with Alateen and AARP to provide meeting space.

At the end of the day, I really see this restoration and expansion as being a metaphor for everything else we are doing at JJML.

The Sag Harbor Historical Society will host its luncheon with Catherine Creedon on Saturday, June 2 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at The American Hotel on Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information or to register, call Nancy Achenbach at 725-5092.

Student Writers Have a Reading of Their Own

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By Claire Walla


Eighth grader Casey Grubb first came to the Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner Teen Writing Workshop because her school counselor suggested it might be something she would enjoy.

She didn’t expect to like it this much.

“I’ve always written, but I’ve never shared it with anyone,” she said. “I was an ‘in the closet writer!’” she added with a laugh.

Though Grubb’s always been prone to drafting short stories and creating her own narratives, she continued, “I’ve never been able to share something so raw.”

This Sunday, after eight months of weekly writing classes, Grubb will be reading an original work aloud along with nearly a dozen other students at the John Jermain Memorial Library, located on West Water Street in Sag Harbor.

“This year, I was trying to give the students the confidence to start sharing their work, to have them believe that their voice has value,” said Emily Weitz, a writer who works part-time for The Express and leads the teen writing workshop each week.

“My role in their lives is somewhere in between teacher and friend,” Weitz explained. “I’m more like their artistic peer, because they’re writers and I’m a writer. We’re all on the same path, and I really look at them like that.”

The class is structured very loosely, often with a prompt or a question at the beginning, inviting all students to enter into discussions before putting pen to paper. While her goal is to get students’ creative juices flowing, Weitz said the bottom line is more simplistic than that: “I just want them to write.”

Weitz said she learned early on that structure is not necessarily conducive to this class.

“I gave them notebooks on the very first day… they were all gone by the second week,” she said with a laugh. In the end, while Weitz helps students edit their pieces, diligent documentation and structured technique are not the point.

“The main goal of this class is to give kids the time and the space to write, to define their own voices without trying to be something that someone else expects them to be,” she explained. “They’re constantly trying to fit into these expectations that their parents or peers have for them, so it’s important for them to have a space where they can write whatever they want, whether it’s a diary entry or a story about a magical world.”

Weitz often starts class by giving students a prompt to stir their creative juices. Such topics have invited students to consider what they carry around in their own bags (and why?) or asked the to wonder what it might be like to be a tourist in their own town.

Eighth grader Alika Esperson said she particularly enjoyed thinking about Sag Harbor from a new perspective.

“I do that more now because I see all the little stuff — the horse from the Five and Ten, or the school with the big clock — and it seems new,” she explained. “I think it’s important every once in a while to look at things differently.”

Throughout the year, students have been adding to an e-zine, called “Moss,” which can be found through the library’s homepage, or by simply going to moss.johnjermain.org. Their first (and only) public reading will take place on Sunday, May 6 at 5 p.m.

“I really appreciate the work that they’ve put in, and the trust and support they have for each other” Weitz added. “The reading is a nice opportunity for them to share their work, but what it’s really about is those many, many weeks when we just came together to write.”

Library Hopes to Grow its Endowment

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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.”

Communal Generosity-12/8/11

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John Jermain Memorial Library is getting underway with its much needed restoration and expansion project. In the midst of it all, we are reminded of the amazing history — not only of the beloved Main Street structure itself, but of the generosity of one woman who built the library a century ago, and the continued generosity of a community today that is ensuring its future.

In 1910, Sag Harbor’s great benefactress Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage (or Mrs. Russell Sage as she was more familiarly known) used $92,000 of her own money (a fortune back then) to build the library, which is named for her grandfather. In those days, it wasn’t assumed that municipalities would pay for the public institutions we all now take for granted and Mrs. Sage also single-handedly financed the building of Pierson High School (named for another ancestor).

So it’s easy to forget sometimes that public institutions still need financial help from the citizenry they serve. Yes, the taxpayers of Sag Harbor did their part by approving a $10 million public bond in 2009 to finance this current expansion and renovation, which will nearly double the size of the original building.

But that’s not the end of the story.

In fact, library director Catherine Creedon took on the mission of raising another $2 million toward the project after the referendum passed. But given the complications of various approvals and boards needed for the project, she’s now looking to bring in $2.5 to $3 million.

Those are big numbers, but already, many in Sag Harbor are stepping up to the plate. Creedon is an amazing champion for the library, and no doubt a large reason why several substantial donations have already come in. A nod must also go to the very committed donors who are taking pride of ownership in the new library by sponsoring various aspects of the work at the site.

But it’s not just those with deep pockets for whom this library was built. This is an institution that is the heart of the community, and though that can be easy to forget while the historic structure is sitting dark in the midst of construction, it’s important everyone does their part for a building that means so much to Sag Harbor. Yes, it’s great to have donors who can write the big checks, but even $5 offered toward the goal is money well spent and greatly appreciated.

So we urge the community to get involved and stay involved on all levels, but particularly as the library works toward its financial goals. This is a village that was built on generosity. As the library continues down the road to its next 100 years, let’s remember that it’s a tradition worth continuing.