Tag Archive | "John Jermain Memorial Library"

John Jermain Memorial Library Earns Final Approvals

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John Jermain

For most people in Sag Harbor, Monday was a normal fall day — the weather turning from grey and foggy to hot and muggy, children pouring in and out of school, families strolling down Main Street in the afternoon, running errands, collecting groceries.

But for Catherine Creedon, Monday was a day she has been waiting for since she was hired as the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library in 2007. It was the day Creedon could walk back to the library’s temporary home on West Water Street and tell her staff that the library had just received the last approval, from the last board, to restore and expand its historic Main Street facility.

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On Monday, the John Jermain Memorial Library earned approval from the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) to add a 7,725 square-foot, modern addition to the rear of its 101-year-old Main Street building. The same day, just hours earlier, Creedon reported the library was also granted permission for an on-site septic system by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

The library had originally hoped to hook up to the Sag Harbor Village wastewater treatment plant, rather than install their own on-site septic system. However, after neighbors — who would have also been forced to hook up to the village treatment plant — expressed concerns, village officials denied the library’s request.

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The small size of the library’s 201 Main Street parcel, and the fact that the village has a wastewater treatment plant, made a Suffolk County Health Department approval difficult at best. However, with the help of the village board — which donated an acre of land off the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike that will be preserved — the library was able to finally gain its approvals this week.

Sag Harbor School District residents approved nearly $10 million in funding for the project in August of 2009. The two approvals were the last the library needed to move forward with its plans after an arduous two-year village review.

On Monday evening, the library’s architect, Michael Scott of Newman Architects, reflected on the design of the addition noting that after several years of considering a second library at Mashashimuet Park, in 2009 the JJML board heard the community’s desire to keep the whole library on its historic site.

Wanting to keep the addition as one that allows the original library, constructed by Mrs. Russell Sage, to stand out and not be overshadowed by an expansion that will more than double the size of JJML, Scott said his firm chose the masonry and glass modern design for the addition.

“Our library distinguishes itself from the existing library in that it is more like a library built at the turn of this century, rather than the library that was built at the turn of the last century,” said Scott.

The goal, he said, was to tuck the new library behind the rear of the existing building, matching the limestone color on the new addition to the existing limestone on the historic library. Large glass windows face out towards Main Street and on Union and Jefferson streets. Scott said the design is meant to simulate the experience of sitting on a porch, looking out at the historic library and Sag Harbor beyond that.

A plaza will be shaped into the ground next to what is now the first floor entry to the three-story library and will be outfitted with free Wifi and computer jacks.

Inside, the first floor will be reconfigured to hold children’s services, offering easy access through the plaza off Jefferson for parents and caregivers toting children in and out of the library. The ground floor will also offer a program room and the teen collection.

The second story, where patrons have traditionally entered the library through its front door, will be completely restored with adult collections displayed there, along with a main circulation desk, a periodical reading room, reference desk, multimedia areas, gallery space and offices.

The third floor rotunda — the interior architectural gem of JJML — will also be fully restored, with original furniture, to its 1910 layout, including a working fireplace. It will be a contemplative reading and study space for the community, and will also hold the library’s first climate controlled history room and archive.

According to Creedon, the whole of the project should be completed in 18 months.

“I think it is wonderful,” said Cee Scott Brown, chair of the ARB. “It is really beautiful. That is going to put Sag Harbor on the map.”

“I think you are doing pretty good so far,” replied Scott.

In other ARB news, James and Pia Zenkel were approved for a gingerbread-inspired, white picket fence and gate at their 71 Jermain Avenue residence.

While architect Anthony Vermandois requested the Zenkels be allowed to construct the fence in painted azek, a composite, rather than wood, ARB member Bethany Deyermond reminded Vermandois that the village code demands wood be used for construction in the historic district.

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor ARB will be held on October 13 at 5 p.m.



Editorial 9/22/11: Vote “Yes” On JJML Budget

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There is no doubt in our minds that residents of the Sag Harbor School District should turn out on Tuesday and vote in favor of the John Jermain Memorial Library’s proposed 2012 budget.

While the budget does call for a 4.8 percent increase in spending, the reality is the library is asking residents to pay an extra average of $5 per year for library services — services that are expanding to include a number of new digital resources, as well as new programming. All the while, the library board is faced with the stark reality of double-digit increases in the cost of healthcare, fuel oil, and is now operating not one, but two library buildings while it restores and expands the Main Street building many of us consider one of the great examples of Sag Harbor architecture.

In its temporary West Water Street location, JJML could have cut back on its programming, blaming the size of its new facility. Recognizing that particularly during bleak economic times the critical role a public library serves in a community, especially when it is so accessible from Main Street, the library has not backed off in the materials or services it offers Sag Harbor residents. In fact, it has increased its roll as the de-facto community center of Sag Harbor and shouldn’t be penalized for giving us all that much needed service.

The trustee elections this year proved a tough race in that all four candidates vying for the three open seats on the library board are obviously qualified to serve and committed to the future of JJML.

That being said, far above the other candidates we endorse Craig Rhodes for a second term on the library board, and urge residents to take the extra time necessary to write him in on their ballots.

JJML Director Catherine Creedon herself has talked about how critical a role Rhodes has played in the often confusing and sometimes frustrating review process for the expansion and renovation of the library. We have found him to be a thoughtful, vocal and intelligent member of the library board. He deserves another term.

We also believe Jackie Brody is ripe for her first full term on the library board after earning a one-year term on the board last fall. Brody has proved a valuable member of the library’s fundraising committee and as the board moves forward with the building project, we feel it is critical that her presence remain on that committee.

For the last seat, honestly, it was a very tough choice between Ann Lieber and Toby Spitz, both who bring a tremendous amount of experience to the table, and have obvious passion for the library. Spitz’s commitment to extending library services into the Latin American communities was particularly engaging and her background in library sciences more than impressive.

However, because of Lieber’s experience specifically with library building projects we feel she should have the seat. However, we encourage Spitz to seek a seat on the board next year as she obviously already is an asset to the library.

John Jermain Memorial Library Candidate and Budget Forum on Wednesday

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Next week, residents of the Sag Harbor Union Free School District will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed 2012 budget for the John Jermain Memorial library. They will also hear the thoughts of four candidates for three trustee seats on the library’s board of trustees — the first election contest for the library in several years.

On Wednesday, September 21 the library will host the forum at 5:15 p.m. in its temporary West Water Street, Sag Harbor home. The library board’s regular meeting will begin after the forum, around 6 p.m.

The library board will present voters in the school district with a 1,253,200 proposed budget for 2012, which the board approved this summer. It is one of the first budgets in the state to fall under the auspices of the mandatory two-percent tax cap. However the library board was able to override the cap with a unanimous vote by its board this summer and will present a budget to voters showing a 4.8 percent increase in spending. The library needs only a simple majority of voters for the budget to be formally adopted.

The proposed budget increase is due to several factors including the cost of operating a second, temporary home on West Water Street while the library’s Main Street building is renovated and expanded. According to the proposed budget, other factors include increases in the cost of staff, opening the library on Sundays year-round, double-digit increases in health care costs, as well as fuel oil, unemployment insurance and a new security system.

On Monday, JJML director Catherine Creedon said that while the proposed budget does call for an increase in spending, that increase is tantamount to asking residents for, on average, an extra $5 per year for library services over what they already pay. Creedon added that breaks down to about $0.43 cents a month, or “less than the price of a stamp,” she said.

Creedon added the trustee race will include a write-in candidate in incumbent Craig Rhodes, who failed to meet deadline to gain a name on the ballot, but has campaigned in the hopes of seeing the library’s restoration and expansion of its Main Street building completed under his tenure on the board.

“Incumbent Craig Rhodes has been instrumental in the building project process,” said Creedon. “And we have another three very strong candidates.”

Incumbent Jackie Brody will join Rhodes, as well as newcomers Ann Lieber and Toby Spitz in the race for seats on the library board.


JJML Has Four Vying for Three Seats Later This Month

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Craig Rhodes has been admittedly immersed in his position as a board member with the John Jermain Memorial Library over the last few years. He has pored over architectural renderings of the library’s renovation and expansion, keeping a close eye on the village’s review and eventual approval of that project, as well as the library board’s books, which he manages as the board’s treasurer.

Rhodes was so busy, in fact, that he says he did not realize he had served almost three years on the board, and — believing he had another year left in his three-year-term — failed to hand in his petition for a position on the ballot later this September.

“It was a total surprise,” said Rhodes on Tuesday. “I am really caught up in this whole project and I would hate to not be involved in what is going on as we are finally moving forward, in getting this building built and creating a great library for Sag Harbor.”

“I want another term to be able to see this through,” he added.

This is why Rhodes, an architect, is vying for his second term with the JJML Board of Trustees as a write-in candidate in what has emerged as a four-person race for three board seats.

The trustee election and budget vote will be held on September 27 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The library will host a special budget hearing and meet the candidate’s forum on Wednesday, September 21 at 5:15 p.m. before the library board holds its monthly meeting at 6 p.m.

In addition to Rhodes, incumbent trustee Jackie Brody, who was elected last year to fill the last remaining year of Tippy Ameres’ term after her resignation from the library board, will also seek a second term.

A Fulbright scholar, writer and editor, Brody said on Wednesday that her commitment to staying with the library board stems from her desire to continue her work on the fundraising committee. That group, said Brody, is critical to the overall success of the building project as the library attempts to raise millions of dollars beyond the public approved $10 million bond that will fund the restoration and expansion of JJML’s historic Main Street library.

Originally, noted Brody, the library’s fundraising committee set a goal of $2 million in additional funds to be raised over the bond. But after a lengthy, and expensive, review process to gain approval for the library project, Brody said the committee would likely seek $3 million in additional funds for the project.

JJML board member Christiane Nueville has reached her term limit with the board, and cannot seek another term. Therefore, joining Brody and Rhodes in the election contest will be Custom House administrator Ann Lieber. Lieber first began using the library as a two year old when her family visited the area each summer.

A member of the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library, Lieber has helped the library with the Friends’ annual House Tour to support the library’s programming, and will host the Friends’ benefit “One for the Books” this year as well. Lieber has also been involved in helping people gain their citizenship through tutorial classes at JJML.

A substitute teacher in the Sag Harbor Union Free School District, Lieber said while living in Indianapolis, she worked as a librarian for two religious institutions, which like JJML, were in the process of expansion.

“So I think I bring some expertise that would be important to the library at this stage,” said Lieber on Wednesday.

Toby Spitz is the fourth candidate on the slate, and is hoping to be elected to the board alongside her good friend, Lieber.

A graduate of the Columbia University School of Library Service, Spitz worked for the New York Public Library for a number of years before opening her own executive search firm for placing attorneys in corporations and law firms.

Spitz moved to Sag Harbor full-time to retire after summering in the village for seven years, and her first stop was the library where she was thrilled to offer her services as a volunteer. She took over running the library’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program after program director Martha Potter retired last year.

On Wednesday, Spitz said she would like to see the library expand its bi-lingual programming. Having grown up in Florida, Spitz said she has always had an affinity for the Latin communities. Recognizing that they are very much a part of the year round East End fabric, she feels libraries need to find ways to better serve that population.

On Tuesday, JJML Director Catherine Creedon said that she was excited to see such interest in the board, particularly as the library moves forward with its building project. She added that each candidate brings strong skills to the table that will no doubt benefit the library.

Creedon said Rhodes has been “instrumental” in moving the building project forward and with his architectural background has become a mentor to the director as the library worked on the design of the new library and waded through the approval process.

Rhodes, who first fell in love with JJML at the age of five, said he would like to continue his work with the library architects as building commences later next year.

Brody’s fundraising efforts have been critical, added Creedon. Lieber’s work on the library’s centennial, among other efforts similar to Spitz’s volunteer work with the ESL program at the library, is a prime example of the kind of people that make Sag Harbor the special community it is, said Creedon.

“We have four very strong candidates,” she said.

Weather & Age a Threat to Library Dome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restoration of John Jermain Memorial Library Begins

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Just weeks after moving into a new temporary home on West Water Street in Sag Harbor, the John Jermain Memorial Library board of trustees was granted approval to begin exterior repairs to their historic Main Street library. It is the first phase of a complete renovation, restoration and over 7,000 square-foot expansion of the 101-year-old library that is expected to take from two to three years to complete.

On Thursday, July 14 architect Richard Munday and historic preservation expert Raymond Pepi, flanked by JJML Library Director Catherine Creedon, presented plans for the first phase of the restoration to the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB).

According to Creedon, library officials are “anxious” to get started on this first phase of the restoration, citing leaks in the building that have “increased exponentially” in the last year alone.

“The work proposed today is just one part of what we anticipate will be many phases with many presentations to the ARB,” said Munday.

The first phase involves the complete re-pointing of brick masonry that surrounds the historic structure, as well as repairs to the building’s limestone trim and cornice.

According to Pepi, his firm — Building Conservation Associates — has done a complete study of the whole building, assessing the exterior to determine what historic materials can be repaired and what needs to be replaced.

The original mortar, said Pepi, is a mixture of cement and limestone and has “experienced a significant amount of erosion” over the last 100 years, even with minor repairs made to the building over the course of its existence.

In addition to re-pointing the brick masonry, and repairing the mortar and limestone trim, ultimately, Pepi said a series of treatments will be applied to the library. These will ensure that with proper maintenance the building will no longer leak when the restoration and expansion is done.

The limestone trim and cornice, said Pepi, will be repaired with any missing pieces replaced with Indiana limestone – the same used when the building was first constructed.

All of the brick, granite and limestone will also be cleaned, he said.

Sag Harbor ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown wondered if the new mortar used to replace eroded material would look different from what exists today.

Pepi said his firm has analyzed the existing mortar and has been able to match the new mortar so that it will closely resemble the color of the mortar that is on the library now.

“The bricks and the limestone have weathered themselves naturally,” he noted. “It doesn’t make sense to change it. We will keep a harmonious balance in terms of the mortar.”

The board unanimously approved the repairs, and according to Creedon, library officials hope to begin the project this September.

Thiele Continues Gas Wars

According to a press release issued by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. last week, he intends to file monthly surveys of gasoline prices on the South Fork with the New York State Attorney General in an effort to stop price gouging in the region.

Thiele said he plans to submit a survey comparing South Fork gas prices with other parts of New York State as a follow-up measure to price gouging he said occurred on the East End over Memorial Day weekend.

While the American Automobile Association provides a survey of gas prices in the state, Thiele said there is no survey that looks solely at the South Fork. He said he would provide the attorney general with the average price of gas on Montauk Highway in an effort to show what a majority of stations are charging for the fuel.

“The Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation of gasoline prices in March and has been actively collecting data throughout the state, including the South Fork, as part of his review,” said Thiele in a statement.

Thiele had contacted the State Attorney General after Memorial Day weekend when South Fork gas prices remained high at $4.25 cents per gallon when the Long Island average was $4.08 and the state average was $4.02.

Thiele said he has also sponsored legislation aimed at strengthening New York’s laws on zone pricing of gas, which is the establishment of changes in the cost of fuel based on geographic locations, without regard to wholesale costs.

“It was clear that on Memorial Day prices had been kept artificially high simply to exploit the crowds flocking to one of America’s most popular vacation communities,” said Thiele.

In Thiele’s July 13 survey, the most prevalent price on the South Fork was $3.99 per gallon at nearly a half dozen stations on Montauk Highway. He said this was $0.03 cents more than the average for all Long Island, $0.10 cents more than the New York State average, and $0.02 cents less than the price of gas in New York City.

“Gasoline prices are still too high, nearly a dollar higher than a year ago,” said Thiele. “However, since I contacted Attorney General Schneiderman, the differential between the South Fork and the rest of the State has narrowed considerably. I appreciate his work on behalf of our motorists.

“To insure fairness in gasoline pricing requires constant vigilance and strong laws,” he continued. “I will provide the Attorney General with price data from my district monthly and will continue to seek strong legislation to inhibit price gouging of our residents.”

Sunday Riderships Soars

According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, the number of riders on a newly introduced Sunday bus service on the East End has doubled in the pilot program’s second week.

Schneiderman said the first Sunday bus two weeks ago carried 396 passengers, but last Sunday an additional 190 passengers rode the bus, bringing the total riders using the public transportation to 586.

“This level of use demonstrates the clear need for public transportation on Sundays,” said Schneiderman.

For close to a decade, Schneiderman fought to make Sunday and holiday county bus service a reality on the East End, citing the resort community’s workforce, which is reliant on the service, as well as an increased desire for public transportation options.

The pilot program was approved this spring, increasing fares by $0.50 to $2 in order to offset the cost. Schneiderman said this week he would like to see the pilot program extended to the rest of Suffolk County.


Fate of a Blue Couch: Cherished and Loathed, Future is Unclear

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Caption: Alex Browngardt relaxes on the denim blue couch in the Children’s Room of the John Jermain Memorial Library, as children have done for over two decades. The fate of the couch remains unclear as staff debate its merits while moving into a temporary space on West Water Street this week. (photo credit Susann Farrell)

By Kathryn G. Menu

Before Cathy Creedon became the director of the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor she was a patron, who frequented the library with her two sons.

On Monday, Creedon recalled one day in 1998 when she took her youngest son, Per, to the children’s room of the library. The two snuggled up on the blue, denim couch in the center of the room and tucked into “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” which had just recently been brought to the library from England. Creedon whispered to her child that she believed something special had happened.

“There is a real possibility that we were some of the first people in Sag Harbor to read ‘Harry Potter,’” said Creedon. “So this couch is a real part of my literary history.”

Creedon is by no means alone.

Scores of toddlers, children, teens and their parents have found comfort in the denim couch since it was purchased by then children’s librarian Dale Scott in 1998. The couch was bought with some of the first monies donated by Paul and Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner to promote youth literacy in the village.

However, this week the fate of the couch remained uncertain as the library staff began packing up the contents of the John Jermain Memorial Library for its moves to temporary quarters at 34 West Water Street. That’s where the library will operate for the next two years while the historic Main Street building is restored and expanded.

“Some people loathe the couch, and some people feel it should be our library logo,” said Creedon last week, adding a number of people have expressed interest in purchasing it if it’s discarded. So many have expressed interest, in fact, Creedon said if the library does get rid of the couch, it will likely have to hold a lottery.

“It’s the only fair way,” she said.

By-and-large, the staff is fairly united in the thought that the couch’s days are numbered.

“I don’t work in the children’s room, so I love the couch,” joked history room coordinator Jessica Frankel.

“I can’t stand the blue couch,” said Donna Fisher, who works at the front desk at JJML just steps away from the faded and worn sofa. “I know people love it, but I don’t and I work right here.”

“The blue couch has always needed a good cleaning,” said circulation director Pat Brandt. “I think it should go and when we get a new one we should look at getting more than one cover.”

“It does look worn and lovely, but …,” added reference librarian Susan Mullin.

“I love the blue couch, but I think it is time for a replacement,” said technology coordinator and webmaster Eric Cohen.

He added that with the number of children who may have … well … soiled the couch, getting him to sit down and relax on it would only happen “in a Hazmat suit.”

But the couch has a soft spot in Creedon’s heart, and while its fate appeared sealed in sale at a John Jermain Memorial Library meeting on Wednesday, June 15, on Monday, Creedon said the library may “try and find a way to keep it.”

“There might be a stay of execution,” she said. “For many people it is the essence of the children’s room.”

One staff member delighted at that prospect is children’s and young adult librarian Susann Farrell. She fears she may be injured by mutinous parents if the couch does not travel to the library’s new home on West Water Street.

“Mothers have told me that they feel like they have raised their children on this couch,” she said.

Farrell added parents have already begun organizing a “Save the Blue Couch” campaign, and have left her their phone numbers, hoping to save the couch from oblivion should it be discarded. In the last six years, only one parent has been adamant about us getting rid of it, she added.

“Right now, the couch is in dire danger of being eliminated,” said Farrell. “It’s a dog in the pound, that is what it is right now.”

So while a majority of the staff appears happy to say their fond farewells, Farrell is experiencing a different emotion.

“I am terrified I will be tarred and feathered if that couch doesn’t come with us,” she said, seated comfortably in its left nook. “This couch represents the ‘at home’ feeling of our library that is so important to Sag Harbor.”

Libraries Respond to the Way Technology Changes the Way We Read

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By Kathryn G. Menu


As the Coordinator of Technology and Media at John Jermain Memorial Library, Eric Cohen has had to embrace a number of new technologies that change the way people, and the library, share information, finding the advent of e-books — used on e-readers like the Kindle — a technology more and more patrons of JJML are using in their daily life.

“It will make library services different, and in a way, more easily accessible,” said Cohen.

On Friday, JJML staff, and staff members from the Montauk and Amagansett libraries met with Kristin Minschke of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System for a tutorial on how to operate different kinds of e-readers.

“It fits into our mission of providing information services to the community, and this is the way more and more people are accessing information,” said JJML director Catherine Creedon.

While the library will remain committed to print, with growing demand for e-books, and even e-readers, for its patrons, JJML staff must have knowledge of each new device in order to best serve its constituency, said Creedon.

In December, Creedon said the library circulated the same number of electronic downloads from its website as it did non-fiction titles — a first in its history.

While non-fiction titles gained a little edge over digital downloads in January, Creedon said she expects to see continued growth in the digital sector, even while print materials remain the most heavily used once children’s books and fiction titles are factored into the equation.

As the library’s technology coordinator, Cohen said he subscribes to online technology forums and is also a member of the Technology Information Forum, which connects all technology coordinators within the SCLS in order for them to stay up to date with new technologies the library can use to better services.

“We are not just here to preserve old books, we are here to provide information,” said Cohen. “We love books and there will always be people who love books, but people often get their information where they can find it the most easily and we need to remain relevant.”

Along with the excitement found in developing new programming, said Creedon, there are a number of challenges libraries will face in trying to harness these technologies, as publishers and e-reader manufacturers alike are still trying to figure out how public libraries fit into the equation.

Creedon said Amazon Kindle e-readers are not compatible with the downloadable material on JJML’s website, which connects to Live-brary.com — the Suffolk Cooperative Library Systems online portal offering free e-book downloads for participating Suffolk County libraries.

Kindle users can only purchase e-books through Amazon, although Project Gutenberg offers free digital downloads of content no longer protected under copyright laws.

In late February, publisher HarperCollins announced it would limit the number of library digital check-outs through each e-book purchased in its catalog to 26, meaning libraries will need to buy several copies of its more popular titles to satisfy demand.

“There are a lot of areas in technology, because it is changing so fast, where the ethics and long-range planning has not yet been figured out,” said Creedon.

For JJML, one challenge will be figuring out its digital budget for the next fiscal year, keeping in mind the still shaky economy and a proposed two-percent property tax cap on the state level.

“I have to be mindful that suddenly we do have a new technology where some vendors are limiting a library’s access to it,” said Creedon, noting traditionally publishers have given libraries a 40 to 60 percent discount on print materials, but that this new model has not yet been figured out.

At the same time, said Creedon, the library must maintain a balance in content for the whole community, with many who still have yet to tap into these new mediums.

Minschke said she views restrictions, like the ones imposed by HarperCollins, as part of the process of working through the details of new technology.

“I view this as the first step in a journey, and it will need to be tweaked, it will need to be reworked, but it is not a bad model,” she said.

Minschke said in theory, after a number of checkouts books often need to be replaced, giving publishers the argument to limit digital checkouts.

“It is such a new field, I think there will be growing pains and it will take awhile for both sides to feel comfortable,” she said. “For me, the fact that we are freeing up more titles is a good thing.”

However, said Cohen, there are still a number of grey areas. JJML hopes in the future to take its Kindle, load it up with a number of e-books purchased through Amazon, and lend it out.

“Is that legal,” he asked. “No one is really sure, but if enough libraries start doing that it could become a question. At the same time, if you buy an e-book for your Kindle and lend it to your neighbor, that seems to be okay. So we hope to try this, but we do so with the understanding that at some point we may have to stop.”

The library has purchased a Kindle, a Nook and a Sony E-Reader for e-book use, now solely for staff development, but eventually Creedon hopes to make these devices available for patrons.

“It’s a very different world from when I first started and we were still purchasing VHS tapes,” said Creedon. “The whole concept of collection development needs to be looked at.”

The Medium is Not the Message

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On October 10, 2010, the John Jermain Memorial Library turns 100 years old. At lot has happened in this village and the world since 1910, when Mrs. Russell Sage gifted upon Sag Harbor the building that continues to be the community’s gathering place for all things literary.

But these days, the library is also expected to be all things wireless and media-related too, a definite challenge in the confined (and crumbling) 1910 space in which library staff now find themselves operating. Which is why a renovation and expansion is in order, and on the centennial of the library’s founding, and with the start of construction not far off, it seems an appropirate time to revisit the structure and reconsider its place in society.

While there will always be those who feel the library shouldn’t try to grow to be anything more than what it’s always been, a place for printed materials, we disagree. In fact, historically, libraries have never been about books, but rather information.

In the early days, it was stone tablets and papyrus scrolls that were kept in the equivalent of Egypt’s ancient libraries. These were repositories of information if you will, and prone to change as did the technology. Books as we know them are a fairly new phenomenon in the scheme of recorded information and while we’re not ready to see their demise quite yet, it is obvious that the world is now moving into another realm.

From providing space for classes, wi-fi access for laptops and a business center for telecommuters to the Live-brary, with its free downloads of audio books, ebooks and video content and even 24-hour access to a remote librarian, it seems that, like it or not, libraries are moving in this higher tech direction. With plans for a much needed reonvation moving forward, we think the library is wise to plan now for how it will reinvent itself in the 21st century.

So this Sunday, as you join the library staff on the lawn of the Custom House for some celebratory ice cream and cake, we ask you to raise a fork to the foresight of the staff, and imagine this same celebration another 100 years down the road. Will Sag Harbor residents of 2110 be commending today’s library administrators for their ability to think ahead?

We certainly hope so.

John Jermain Memorial Library Contends With Earl

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web Lib Hurricane

On Friday afternoon, as Sag Harbor residents hustled to Schiavoni’s for extra bread and milk and the first bands of Hurricane Earl swept rain across the East End, Catherine Creedon was worried about more than whether the contents of her refrigerator would see her through the big storm that never was.

As the director of Sag Harbor’s historic John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML), Creedon spent the morning tactically placing trash bins under leaks spouting from the library’s third floor ceiling lay light, securing tight plastic around stacks of books in yet another area of the library prone to leakage, and carefully clearing out the library’s history room to protect the historic documents that have been placed in her care.

Adjusting two recycling bins used to collect water seeping from a window on the stairs leading to the third floor, Creedon remarked to JJML program director Martha Potter that as a precaution, the two should start removing the library’s latest art installation by Christine Chew Smith. They passed under the window, the precious artwork in their hands, and at 1:30 p.m. Creedon’s world literally came crashing down around her.

The ceiling of the alcove window dropped down, breaking into pieces as it hit the floor, just moments after Creedon and Potter had passed underneath it.

“We have had severe leaking there,” said Creedon. “There was so much water in there, the plaster was like mud.”

Creedon closed the third floor of the library immediately on — despite the inclement weather — one of the busiest days the library has had in memory.

“It was very busy that day,” she said. “We were lucky it was us and not one of the patrons.”

On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the library’s contractor, Sandpebble Builders, inspected the site, Creedon re-opened the third floor again, hanging Smith’s work back on the walls. The artist will host an opening at the library in celebration of HarborFest weekend, on Saturday, September 11 from 2 to 4 p.m.

According to Sandpebble, what has fallen down from that ceiling is all that will fall down due to the water damage sustained over the last 100 years, but water infiltration will remain an issue there, and in other spaces of the library as the aging structure awaits a proposed renovation, restoration and addition, which is currently being reviewed by the Sag Harbor Planning Board.

“We will continue to monitor the area through the colder winter months, which are a concern,” said Creedon. “If it poses a risk, we will close that space. Because it is on the steps to the third floor, it is difficult to protect the area with scaffolding.”


The impending arrival of Hurricane Earl also concerned Creedon as she watched construction crews led by historic preservationists removed a section of the limestone cornice just days before Earl was set to arrive, leaving a portion of the building exposed to the elements, its only reprieve a sheet of plastic.

The cornice’s removal was to ascertain the library’s structural integrity and what level of restorative work will be needed if and when the village approves the library project.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” she said on Tuesday, noting the cornice piece was being reinstalled Tuesday afternoon, with the scaffolding and cribbing hugging the Jefferson Street side of the library expected to be removed by the end of the week.

“The most interesting part of it is how absolutely gorgeous the construction of the building is,” Creedon remarked.

While she is still awaiting a formal report, she said the top of the building – the cymatium, which is held in place by weight, friction and mortar – is in much better shape than she ever imagined, making the restoration aspect of the building project an easier process.

Some of the restoration work, library trustees and Creedon hope, will be completed before the expansion now that the village has approved the library’s use of a temporary space on West Water Street – a space they hope to move into late this fall.

On Tuesday, Creedon said she is working on an application to gain Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) permission to re-point the clean the library’s exterior masonry.

Creedon said the library has already done a chemical analysis of the mortar between the bricks to ascertain their original color and is curious what the ARB would prefer – a library with the original white mortar, made with local sand, or the limestone color the mortar has aged into – the color residents have enjoyed for decades.

“What level do we restore it to,” asked Creedon excitedly, as if she was on her way to solving an intellectual mystery. “Will they want that original white or does it make more sense if we consider the building as a living document, and therefore keep the limestone color we all know and love?”