Tag Archive | "John Jermain Memorial Library"

The Medium is Not the Message

Tags: ,

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

Tags: ,

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?”

Library Gets Okay for Temporary Home on West Water Street

Tags: ,

web Library Temp_1

Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library scored a victory on Tuesday night in front of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board and was granted permission for a waiver to undergo site plan approval for a temporary library space on West Water Street, effectively giving the library permission to relocate to another site this fall without review.

The decision will allow the library board of trustees to sign a lease on the 3625 square-foot West Water Street location, which most recently housed Personal Best Fitness. JJML Director Catherine Creedon said moving into the space this fall will allow the library the ability to forgo repairs to the historic library’s furnace, which they plan to replace with a geothermal heating system if they are approved for a sizable expansion to their Main Street facility.

It will also enable the library to apply for a permit through the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board to begin cosmetic restoration to the aging library building, including window replacement and masonry work while they await village and county approval for a more than 7,000 square-foot, modern addition they hope to build at the rear of their current building.

On Tuesday night, Sag Harbor Village planning consultant Richard Warren explained that allowing the waiver was in line with last year’s revision to the village zoning code, which included provisions for site plan waivers for changes in use that are permitted or special exemption uses under the new code, does not increase the size of the existing space, and do not require more wastewater treatment or parking.

“This is a perfect example of why we amended the code and put a site plan waiver in there,” said board member Gregory Ferraris.

The library’s environmental review for their expansion project is expected to be revisited at next month’s September 28 meeting.

In other JJML news, in the wake of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustee’s decision to not extend the village wastewater treatment plant line to accommodate the library project, last week at a library board of trustees meeting, Creedon announced the village board is trying to aide the library through their application with the Suffolk County Health Department for an on-site treatment system.

Trustees denied the library’s application to extend the sewer line earlier this month, citing concerns from neighbors and concerns that the limited capacity of the village sewage treatment plant should be reserved for more environmentally sensitive projects.

However, last week, Creedon said trustees have announced they intend to work with JJML officials by identifying existing land owned by the village that it could offer to the county as open space in return for Pine Barren credits, a gift that will ultimately save the library a considerable amount of money.

“The village trustees are being as supportive and positive with us as they can,” said Creedon.

Vacant Seat in John Jermain Memorial Library Trustee Election

Tags: ,

This week the slate of candidates seeking election to the John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees was announced and with just three residents of the library district running for four open seats on the board, a write-in candidate will likely fill the unexpired one-year term of former board member Theresa Ameres.

Current trustees Carl Peterson and Carol Williams will both seek to keep their seats on the board this September 28, with Linley Whelan joining them as a third candidate.

Peterson was appointed to the board in 2007, filling the seat of Gregory Ferraris, and was re-elected to the board that same year. Williams also began her tenure on the board in 2007. Both are seeking their second elected terms as trustees.

Whelan, who is on the board of directors of the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, is also a member of Save Sag Harbor and a licensed real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens.

Barring an aggressive write-in campaign, Whelan stands to fill the seat of current trustee Nancy Hallock, who has decided to not seek re-election this year.

Who will fill Ameres’ unfilled one-year term will remain in the hands of those who bring a pen when they vote in the trustee elections this September. In 2007, architect Kate Evarts was voted onto the board in an organized write-in campaign where she received over 50 votes. She stepped down the following year.

In addition to choosing who will serve on the board of trustees, residents will also weigh in on a proposed $1,195,502 operating budget for 2011, $64,000 of which will allow the library to rent a temporary space on West Water Street this fall. The proposal represents a 9.8 percent increase in spending over this year’s spending plan.

On September 15 at 5:15 p.m., the library will host a budget and trustee forum for residents, which will be followed by the regular board of trustees meeting at 6 p.m.

The budget vote and trustee election will be held on September 28 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

John Jermain Memorial Library Looks at Budget Increase for Home During Renovation

Tags: ,

The John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees will present a 2011 draft budget on July 21 that increases spending by 9.8 percent – the majority of that increase linked to the library’s need for $64,000 to rent a temporary space on West Water Street during the restoration of their historic Main Street building, and later, the library’s proposed expansion.

According to John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon, the proposed spending plan is for $1,195,502, $1,139,888 of which would be paid for by residents of the Sag Harbor Union Free School District.

“One of the things this budget will allow us to do is move forward with the building project,” said Creedon on Monday.

Creedon explained that the board intends to petition the Sag Harbor Planning Board, which is reviewing a proposed 7, 725 square-foot, three-story modern expansion at the library, to review a temporary space on West Water Street separately from the rest of the project. The hope, said Creedon, is the planning board will be able to approve the use of the temporary space in time for the library to rent it at the end of the summer. After six to eight weeks of work at the Graphic Arts Building, located across the street from the post office, Creedon said JJML would close for one week before ideally moving into the space following library’s centennial celebration on October 10.

“I would like to have some sort of ceremonial parade, with the high school or community band, from the library to our new space,” she said.

If approved, it appears the expansion of JJML will not take place until the spring, noted Creedon, and moving into the temporary space late this fall would allow the library to apply for a separate building permit to address what she called “critical” repairs to the historic library, specifically to the windows, the skylight in the rotunda and to the exterior masonry of the building.

It would also enable the library to forgo repairing a furnace at JJML that they hope to replace with a geothermal heating system during the expansion, as they will not need to rely on the all but broken heating system to see patrons through another winter.

Creedon said the costs of these minor repairs will not increase the cost of the building project as a whole.

Outside of the $64,000 needed to rent the temporary space, Creedon said she tried to keep the budget as close to last year’s spending plan as possible, understanding the economy has taken its toll on the pocketbooks of district residents.

Health insurance premiums have been estimated to rise some 16 percent, she said, and as a result, the library has budgeted $143,290 to cover insurance and benefit costs for its employees, an increase of $18,290.

The library has also seen an increase in demand for compact discs, young adult videos and in particular, audio books for adults. She proposes to increase spending for audio books from $4,600 to $5,400.

Among the more significant cuts, the draft budget slashes funding for building and grounds expenses from $19,480 this year to $4,400 in 2011, with the hope that the library will be able to move into West Water Street this fall. Should the library fail to get approval from the village for that space, Creedon said it would use the $64,000 to make 201 Main street “livable and operable for the staff and the public” through the winter.

Creedon said despite her effort to keep the library budget lean, she and her staff are developing programming aimed at expanding the role of the library in patron’s lives. Working with technology coordinator Eric Cohen, Creedon said staff are developing JJML’s virtual presence, hoping to create an interactive forum where community members and experts will be able to post original content on the library website. Creedon envisions inviting “guest librarians” to the site where they can share expertise on topics like sustainability, cooking, sewing and the like.

She is also working on expanding the library’s outreach to homebound patrons.

The board of trustees intends to review the spending plan at its July meeting, and Creedon reminded the library will host a public meeting in September, prior to the budget vote, when trustee candidates will also formerly introduce themselves to the community.

The library board will have four seats up for election this fall, with Carl Peterson and Carol Williams vying to keep their positions on the board. Nancy Hallock has opted not to seek another term and the fourth position is the remaining one-year term of Theresa Ameres who resigned earlier this year.

Library Renovation Delayed as Reserve Fund Drains

Tags: ,

By Kathryn G. Menu

Last Wednesday, Catherine Creedon, director of Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library, explained to her board of trustees that they will need to find a way to finance the rent on a temporary space. This comes in the wake of a depleted reserve account as well as an ongoing review of a proposed expansion which has tied up close to $10 million in public funding.

After Creedon spoke, trustee Carl Peterson looked across the library rotunda and sighed.

Last June, school district voters overwhelmingly approved the $10 million expansion of the historic library building, which they will pay for over the next 20 years. But faced with yet another hurdle in what has become the arduous task of getting approval for the expansion plans, library trustees have, in recent weeks, been looking for solutions to a bevy of problems as they plan for next year’s budget — including the prospect of spending another winter in a building in dire need of repair. 

Since October, the library expansion plan has been in front of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board for review. The proposed 7,725 square-foot, three-story modern expansion would more than double the size of the current library, which would also undergo crucial repairs and historic restoration as part of the plan.

Last month, the planning board announced it would require the library to complete an extensive environmental review on the project, which is expected to begin at the July 27 planning board meeting. Until the planning board signs off on that review, however, the library is unable to access the publicly approved financing for the project through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), a lending agency often used by public institutions.

In the meantime, according to Creedon, though the library’s operating budget is secure, its reserve accounts are all but tapped, having been used to pay for planning, legal, and architectural fees associated with the project.

Creedon explained that financially, the library has just $195,000 left in its reserve accounts, with $25,000 restricted for special projects. Creedon said the library expects a third of the second half of tax monies from the Sag Harbor School District in the next two months — around $350,000 — half of which is earmarked for the operating budget, and 45 percent of which can be used towards the expansion.

On Tuesday, Creedon stressed that she and the board appreciate the work the village has done to move the project towards approval and the time spent on the review by planning board members, their counsel and planners.

Due to the expected length of the planning board’s review, in addition to approvals needed from the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board, zoning board of appeals, village trustees and the Suffolk County Board of Health, the process is taking longer than expected. While trustees hoped to move into a temporary space this fall and begin construction, its contractors – Sandpebble Builders – now estimate the library will not be able to break ground until next spring.

This has left the board of trustees, and Creedon, with the task of figuring out how to continue to finance the review of the project in the wake of dwindling reserves and the inability to access referendum monies. It also raises the specter of surviving another winter in a building full of cracks, leaks and a furnace and septic system on their last legs.

Making problems worse, according to Sandpebble, material costs for construction, as well as interest rates, are on the rise, meaning delays on the project will result in a more costly expansion in the long run.

Trustees also learned last week that funding for a temporary space — possibly in the Graphic Arts building on West Water Street — cannot come from DASNY. That’s because rent, even in a temporary space, is considered an operating expense and not an expense associated with the project.

Creedon said it is the board’s hope to make a separate application for village approval for the temporary space as well as approval for repairs to John Jermain Memorial Library.

“While we might have had sufficient capital reserves to pay that rent, the duration of the permitting process has exhausted those reserves,” said Creedon on Monday, leaving the library board to debate whether it should seek funding for the temporary space in its proposed budget.

“The budget has been very tough this year, because so much is unknown,” said Creedon on Tuesday. “It has made it very difficult and the easiest way to address this is to write up a generous budget, but this is simply not the era for it.”

Creedon said she was working with the board this week on the proposed spending plan, which is expected to be presented sometime next week and must be adopted by the board before July 1.

“We are very conscious of the economy,” she said. “We want to present a budget that is doable for patrons and the community. I think the library is always a great value, but we want to make sure we are not unrealistic in what we put forth to the public, even if it means we have to look over certain costs that would make it easier for us to construct this budget given what remains up in the air.”

In addition to a barely operable furnace, the library has a handful of dead trees on its property it hoped to remove during construction that Creedon said may need to be addressed, for safety reasons, before another autumn of stormy weather. The stained glass in the rotunda has several loose panels and is leaking badly, she added, which is another immediate concern. Paying for these repairs outside of the scope of the building project is not something trustees wanted to do, as it will prove more costly than if they were wrapped up in the building project.

“We are trying to balance the care of the building, the safety of our patrons with the reality of the economy and unknowns about our immediate future,” said Creedon.

Parking Dominates Sag Harbor Library Debate

Tags: ,

web library

Just a handful of residents in a crowded Sag Harbor Planning Board meeting Tuesday night offered suggestions to the board about John Jermain Memorial Library’s plan to double the size of its historic Main Street structure, with parking the main issue of debate.

On Tuesday, April 27 the board held a special public session on JJML’s plans to restore and expand its Main Street location — the goal not to debate the project’s merits, but rather give the public the chance to tell the planning board what they would like to see the village review about the project.

After years, and several revisions, residents of the Sag Harbor school district approved close to $10 million in funding last summer for a 7,725 square-foot expansion of the 7,084 square foot library, twwhich will be developed at the library’s current site. The three-story, modern addition, made of glass, masonry and stainless steel is proposed to wrap around the rear of the building, in what architects describe as a chevron shape.

Seemingly anticipating that parking and traffic would be the issue of the hour, after a brief presentation on the architectural style of the addition by architect Richard Munday, the library’s environmental planner David Emilita walked the crowd of 60 residents through their parking plan.

Sag Harbor Village’s zoning code’s formula for determining the amount of parking needed at the library uses the floor area devoted to seating, the floor area devoted to books and how many employees the library has on staff. Emilita said the existing library, under that formula would need 56 spaces.

“Of course, as you know, there are none,” he said. “Potentially a big problem.”

The expansion would necessitate an additional 28 spaces for a grand total of 84 parking spaces, said Emilita. However, using a standard method for parking calculations – outlined in a manual published by the Institute of Traffic Engineers – the library would only need 61 parking spaces and after conducting its own surveys at JJML, Emilita believes they need even less.

Based on surveys conducted in 2003 and 2009, Emilita said the number of patrons that come to the library by car has dropped by two-thirds in the last six years, and the number of patrons that bike to JJML has more than doubled.

“We see today that in 2009, one-third of library patrons get to the library, but they are not seeking parking,” said Emilita. He added, two-thirds of library patrons are not just visiting JJML when they come to the village, but also attending to other business in Sag Harbor.

Based on a peak traffic analysis conducted Labor Day weekend last year, Emilita said a survey of public parking in a two-to-three block radius, or 800-feet, around JJML showed two-thirds of parking spaces were vacant. While the spaces are not officially striped for parking, Emilita said his team has surveyed the area and found there are 231 parking spaces within walking distance to JJML. Emilita added, accounting for public activities in the neighborhood, as well as fire hydrant areas, houses that require on-street parking and driveways, his team estimates there would be 112 vacant spaces at peak hours around the existing library.

“Having done all that analysis, I believe the library expansion can take place with some sort of striping program to be implemented and we will explore that with the village,” said Emilita.

Sag Harbor resident Jim Posner was not swayed by Emilita’s figures.

“I think it is sort of an insult to the population that we can say in reality that there is parking when there is no parking,” said Posner.

Posner argued that 50 percent of JJML patrons are from outside of the Village of Sag Harbor, and require parking when they come to the library. He also said that libraries in Hampton Bays, Southampton and Riverhead all have dedicated parking outside of their building “in a civilized way.”

Gigi Morris, who lives on Main Street just a block from the library, disagreed with Posner’s assessment. Remembering an early meeting about the addition, held at the library to a standing room only crowd, Morris said there was not a single car parked in front of her house that evening.

“I almost have never had a car parked in front of my house for something happening at the library,” said Morris.

A member of the 725-GREEN movement, which just brought in Project for Public Spaces to Sag Harbor, Morris said parking should not be the focus of the library’s expansion plan and that organization would agree.

“They would say quite adamantly, when you plan for parking you lose every vision of making it a place you want to be,” she said. “As they said to me, you have to get your mind out of the gutter, and if you create a place, a place people want to be, where they can go to the library, the museums, the village, they will find a way to go there.”

Mac Griswold, another Sag Harbor resident, said she wondered if the planners and architects could illuminate the public on safety measures for parking around the library.

“The perception there isn’t enough parking arises from the safety of the parking,” she said.

Outside of parking, there was a lone comment from the person likely most affected by the library’s expansion plan — neighbor Ann Costaldo, whose Jefferson Street home would sit directly behind the new addition. Costaldo had remained mum on the project until Tuesday night.

“What has me really baffled by the whole thing is they are going to squeeze this on a little property when there is a perfectly good building next door,” said Costaldo, referring to the former Morpurgo property directly behind the library on Union Street, which has been shuttered since its court-mandated sale.

Costaldo said the library should spend an additional $1 million to $2 million to buy that property and erect the addition there – an idea floated years ago, which led to litigation that continues to this day by the former owner of the property, Anselm Morpurgo.

“It’s a danger to the community,” said Costaldo of the Morpurgo property. “Why couldn’t they just raze that building and use that for the library? Can anyone answer me?”

John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Smaller Board of Trustees

Tags: , ,

With the departure of board member Theresa “Tippy” Ameres earlier this year, the John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees has been shy a member, and after a discussion at last week’s monthly board meeting, it appears it may remain that way.

On Wednesday, April 21 the board continued a discussion on whether or not to change its bylaws to keep the JJML board at seven members, rather than eight. With elections for three board seats slated for September, board president Chris Leonard said it was important for the board to decide whether or not to fill Ameres’s seat now, wait until September elections or eliminate the seat all together.

If the board did choose to put Ameres’s seat on the September ballot, residents of the library district would be asked to vote for three three-year terms and one one-year term for the board of trustees.

“I think we should decide this tonight,” he said noting the board would need to formerly vote on the measure at its May 19 meeting.

By state law, the board must consist of five members, can boast close to two-dozen trustees.

“I would be perfectly happy with seven,” said trustee Christiane Nueville. She added she believes the board should refrain from appointing trustees in the instance of an absence, as it harkens back to a time residents in the Sag Harbor School District did not have an opportunity to elect its library board, and often appointments were handed out to the friends of sitting board members.

“I have always felt the more people to share the responsibility is logical, at least at this point in time,” said trustee Craig Rhodes, adding there is no reason the current makeup of the board could not stand until September. Trustee Carol Williams seconded Rhodes comments.

“I have been in favor of officially reducing the size of the board to seven since we had nine members,” said trustee Carl Peterson, adding other libraries and municipal boards function with seven and five member board perfectly well.

“Right now we are very harmonious and it is like a well-oiled machine, but there is going to be a time where people will be in and out, terms will expire and we are not going to stay like this forever,” said trustee Nancy Hallock, wondering if keeping the board’s current makeup isn’t simply delaying the inevitable.

Trustee Michael Garabedian added should a “troublemaker” come onto the board, they could have a greater impact on a seven-member board when it comes to a majority vote. Peterson countered an eight-member board can lead to deadlock.

“I think eight is an advantage because if a board is deadlocked, they have to resolve it,” said JJML director Catherine Creedon.

Peterson made a motion to reduce the size of the board to seven, and was backed up by Nueville, Leonard and after hesitating a few moments, Hallock. Rhodes and Williams voted against the motion, with Garabedian abstaining.

“This doesn’t have to be forever,” said Hallock. “Should the board find it needs more people another motion can be made.”

In other library news, the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library have announced it will host its house tour July 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with six houses up for viewing.

“What I want to appeal to you is to speak to friends who might be interested in serving as hosts,” said Friends President Gloria Brown, adding the Friends hope to secure 70 to 80 volunteers to help run the tour.

Lastly, as the library nears its Centennial – on October 10, 2010 – Hallock said the centennial committee has settled on hosting a parade from JJML to the library’s temporary space on Bay Street, and is also hoping to hold a birthday party at the historic library itself. Creedon added the staff is putting together a calendar of historic photographs, many which will be blown up and displayed first at JJML and then at the Bay Street library. Program director Martha Potter has also been awarded a $1000 grant to create an oral history of the library and is soliciting members of the public who believe they may have stories to share about the library.

John Jermain Memorial Library Presents New Designs for Modern Addition

Tags: ,

web library 1

The plan for a modern expansion of the historic John Jermain Memorial Library has received a fairly favorable review from the village’s architectural review board – the committee charged with protecting the historic character of Sag Harbor.

web library 2

On Thursday, April 8, the library’s architect Richard Munday informally presented the village ARB with initial plans to expand the 7,084 square-foot building with a 7,725 square foot, three-story expansion made of glass, masonry and stainless steel beams.

Munday said the design was meant to showcase what libraries meant to patrons in 1910, evidenced in the original building’s architecture, as well as how patrons use the libraries today – highlighted in the modern, open addition.

“They were repositories and expressions of what was thought to be the very best of what the human mind can conceive and your library very much exemplifies that idea,” said Munday. “It is a building that when you enter, you enter another world and you leave behind the village. You are immersed in this body of knowledge.”

Unlike the historic JJML building, where patrons are enveloped by the building once they pass through its entryway, the addition, Munday said, is meant to highlight the change in how libraries are viewed — not just as places where an education by the great thinkers can be obtained, but also as spaces where discovery of new knowledge is fostered and where one can reflect, from a visual perspective, on their community.

“Our thinking is that this library, this addition, should be different in its character, different in its expression,” he said, noting the Secretary of the Interior mandates that expansions of historic buildings should purposefully not mimic the original structure. Munday said the hope is that patrons enter JJML, still experiencing the historic library Sag Harbor has embraced for a century, and then move into the expansion and feel as if they are in a completely different kind of space.

“A library that doesn’t enclose, but acts like a podium looking out on the place we have come from,” Munday said, noting patrons will even be able to gaze at the historic library structure from the floor-to-ceiling glass panes that dominate the front of the new library – a design feature ARB chairman Cee Scott Brown called “compelling.”

The addition, which Munday described as “Chevron shaped,” wraps around the back of JJML with two wings visible from Main Street. While the portions of the addition facing Main Street are primarily glass and stainless steel, the majority of the rear is clad in stone, in an effort to minimize the impact the building will have on neighbors.

On the Jefferson Street side of the expansion, where people now enter the library’s first floor, outdoor seating and landscaping is planned in a pavilion-like, stone setting. JJML director Catherine Creedon said she enjoys the fact that the new design requires patrons to use the same two library entrances they use today, albeit upgraded.

“The new library addition really acts in the shadow of the old building,” noted Munday, adding it was designed to be a “softer presence and a more informal presence” than the original library building.

The renovation and expansion also aims for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status, said Munday.

Creedon explained the first floor would contain children services, as it allows for easy access off Jefferson Street.

“For all the flaws this building has, it has great acoustics,” added Creedon, noting the children’s services on the first floor will protect the rest of the library from overhearing story time or the children’s librarian engaging in another round of the Hokey Pokey.

The ground floor also has a program room and a teen collection.

The second story will be fully restored, and patrons will find the adult collections on this floor, along with a main circulation desk, a periodical reading room, a reference desk, multimedia areas, gallery space, and offices for the staff and Creedon herself.

The third floor will be fully restored, furniture included, to its original 1910 layout, including a working fireplace, and is viewed as a contemplative reading and study space for the community. It will also boast a climate-controlled archive, Creedon’s dream since becoming director at JJML.

“My first reaction is there is too much glass,” said ARB member Bethany Deyermond.

Both Brown and board member Michael Mensch agreed the kind of stone used in the expansion would be crucial to its architectural success. Munday said his firm is looking at different stones with red, brown and grey highlights, but has yet to settle on one yet.

“Conceptually, I like it very much,” said Mensch. “I think the contrast is well conceived between the two.”

“I have to say, myself, I am very excited about the addition and I think it is very sensitive and respectful to the original building,” said Brown. “It’s very exciting as a new piece of history of the village.”

Second Language is Second Nature at John Jermain Memorial Library

Tags: , ,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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