John Jermain Memorial Library Steps Into Self-Publishing Realm

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John Jermain Memorial Library Sag Harbor
The John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller photo

In a village that seemingly boasts a higher concentration per square mile of writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, photographers and other creators than so many other places, one public library is doing something to reach out and preserve their as-yet unpublished works.

The John Jermain Memorial Library is in the process of launching a free content-sharing platform that will allow almost anyone who creates original material — works of prose or poetry, recorded music, movies, collections of photographs or artwork, written and oral histories, research and much more — to self-publish it while retaining their intellectual property rights and finding help reaching an audience.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Catherine Creedon, JJML’s director, who tied the initiative to the library’s basic mission. “We look for ways to respond to the particulars of our community. We want to celebrate the stories that make Sag Harbor unique, and this is an opportunity for us to not only share those stories, but also to preserve them.”

The library is currently seeking material to use to launch the platform, which Eric Cohen, the library’s director of technology, anticipates will be available for the general public in September on the library’s website, johnjermain.org.

Mr. Cohen said the library can even help aspiring authors with the technology to format an already-edited manuscript as an e-book for the self-publishing platform. He suggested it is a great way for writers, musicians and other artists to get exposure and build a following.

“You don’t know who might hear your music or read your book when it’s on our website,” he said. “Along with having a lot of artists and authors out here, we also have a lot of publishers and people in the music business. It might get seen or heard that way.”

Material shared via the platform will be integrated into JJML’s online collection. It will be searchable in the catalog and can be downloaded for a length of time specified by its author. Material can be taken down at any time.

Ms. Creedon said she hopes not only will writers, musicians, filmmakers, and photographers get involved, but also historians, genealogists, choreographers, scholars, architects and designers. She envisioned a community archive that documents Sag Harbor as it changes, for instance by creating photographic records of buildings and streets as well as collecting histories of the people who live here before they pass on.

“We’re really rich with people who keep this community vibrant,” she said. “To turn this excitement into reality, we need content. We need the community to come forward and say, ‘This is great. I want to share this document with you, this photo, this song.’”

The model is similar to what the Seattle Public Library began doing in 2013. According to the trade publication American Libraries, it has since caught on in cities like Toronto and Jacksonville and the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and Chicago, Illinois. As far as Mr. Cohen knows, JJML would be the first Long Island library offering such a self-publishing platform.

“It has become insanely popular in big cities,” Mr. Cohen said. “I do think it’s a tremendous opportunity. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think people would be excited by it.”

Those who are interested can get the process started by emailing him at ericc@johnjermain.org.

An avid writer who can often be seen and heard at the library’s writing programs, Mr. Cohen said he envisions using the system himself.

“It fits perfectly for me,” he said.

And Ms. Creedon said the project fits Sag Harbor.

“This is a community that is perfect for this type of experiment and innovation,” she said. “All of it becomes part of our narrative.”

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