Splitting Services On Tap for John Jermain Memorial Library Discussion

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As the architects hired by the John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees try to decipher and then design a building plan for Sag Harbor’s public library that suits all of the community’s needs, this weekend they will begin a discussion on the possibility of splitting up library services between the historic Main Street building and a new library space elsewhere.

On Saturday, December 6 from 9 a.m. to noon, the library will host a public workshop with Newman Architects – the firm charged with developing the library’s new building plan – in the library’s rotunda. According to library director Cathy Creedon, the workshop will be broadcast simultaneously to the handicapped accessible ground floor, and childcare will be provided at the library free of charge, to ensure all members of the Sag Harbor community have an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

The forum is the second held with the architects, with the goal of defining what library services Sag Harbor has, what services they don’t have and need, and in general, what direction the community would like the library to take as it looks towards an expansion. After a forum dedicated to these questions was held earlier this fall, according to Creedon, Newman Architects will come back this Saturday and begin a conversation about the possibility of dividing library programming into different spaces, what programming can be separated, what programming cannot and how that can be accomplished from a design perspective.

Creedon said the architects will also outline the services found in a contemporary library and discuss the different kind of current users at John Jermain, whether it be the mother who brings her child to the library for story time, or the resident who comes to the space each morning, to check e-mail and begin their day.

“We are hoping we can begin to get a range of voices illustrating the usage at the library as it is right now,” said Creedon. “One of my hopes is in this second workshop we might hear enough of the community’s voice where we can prioritize what we need to do right away, and what we may need to accomplish down the road.”

And designing a library plan for this range of voices is exactly what Newman Architects has been charged with accomplishing, rather than strictly designing a program based on the concept of two library buildings, which has been the route the board of trustees has taken over the last five years.

Newman Architects has been charged to “work with the library director, the board, the staff and the community to design a building program that will best serve the Sag Harbor community’s library needs,” not necessarily under a charter of building a second library at Mashashimuet Park. 

The wording of the architect’s charge is a marked departure from the library board’s previous commitment to one library, two buildings – the second building slated for the triangle shaped parcel next to the park. After hiring Newman Architects in June, the board unveiled this broader mission, which is intended to give the new architects the latitude to discover what it was the Sag Harbor community desires in their public library. 

The John Jermain Memorial Library has been struggling to find a way to address its needs for several years now, as its current historic structure is in dire need of repairs and rehabilitation and lacks space for programming. In 2004, the public voted down an $8 million referendum to build a new library at Mashashimuet Park. This new round of public forums, under the guidance of a new library director and architectural firm, is the beginning of a new design process that will also end in a public referendum seeking funds for whatever method the board chooses as the solution for solving the community’s library needs.

The board has remained mum on when it will float a concept to the Sag Harbor School District voters, although according to Creedon, she and members of the library’s fundraising committee are working overtime to ensure whatever monies are sought from the community will be offset by other funding sources. The difficult economic times ahead, which traditionally leads to skyrocketing library usage but also creates hurdles for a referendum process, only makes the library’s job more difficult, noted Creedon.

“It’s a challenge,” she said. “Mostly because our foot traffic and circulation are at record breaking levels this year. More than ever, the library is really key to what people are doing and provides important resources.”

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