Community Library Committee Report

II. Introduction

This report is the work of many individuals with differing perspectives who have worked together to envision a strong and viable future for their library while respecting the unique characteristics of their community. The issues surrounding the future of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML) are numerous and complex. The purpose of this report is to offer guidance to the JJML Board of Trustees in their deliberations, and to demonstrate to the community the seriousness and importance of the planning process for the library’s future.

The Community Library Committee

After the defeat of the library building referendum in December 2004, the JJML Board of Trustees determined to learn from that experience, and to renew their efforts to plan for the JJML’s second century of service to the community. To broaden community input into the planning process, the JJML Board created the Community Library Committee (CLC), comprised of a broad cross-section of residents drawn from a variety of community organizations and interests. The JJML Board appointed as Chairperson Frederick Stelle, a respected member of the community and licensed architect who had served previously on the Pierson High School Facility Needs Committee to develop its successful expansion program. The other members of the CLC are:

Gloria Primm Brown
*Kelly Canavan
Priscilla Ciccariello
Alison Cornish
*Ken Dorph
Alex Eames
*Steve Greenberg
Steven Hatfield
Valerie Justin
Susan Kinsella
David Lee
*Anne Mackesey
Jim Marquardt
*Leonard Mayhew
*Christiane Neuville
Jim Posner
Kristen Schiavoni
Arne Skilbred
Gail Slevin
Zach Studenroth
Chris Tice
Greg Ferraris, ex officio
Ed Deyermond, ex officio
Fred Thiele Jr., ex officio

* served for a limited time

The CLC meetings were regularly attended by representatives of the media, including:

Grant Tse, Southampton Press
Bryan Boyhan and Beth Young, Sag Harbor Express
Taylor Vecsey, East Hampton Star

In an effort to reflect all points of view, the JJML Board contacted numerous civic, cultural and educational organizations within the JJML’s district. The following organizations responded and appointed Individuals to the CLC:

  • Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor
  • Friends of the Library
  • John Jermain Future Fund
  • John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees
  • John Steinbeck Committee
  • Ladies Village Improvement Society of Sag Harbor
  • Park and Recreation Association of Sag Harbor, NY Inc.
  • North Haven Village Board
  • Noyac Civic Council
  • Sag Harbor Clergy
  • Sag Harbor Historical Society
  • Sag Harbor School Board
  • Sag Harbor Schools PTA
  • Sag Harbor Village Board
  • Sag Harbor Whaling Museum

In addition, several members were appointed “at large” in an effort to assure fair representation for all the residents served by the JJML.

It is both interesting and important to note that the members of the CLC voted for or against the 2004 library referendum in roughly the same proportion as the general public.

Though many of the members of the CLC were originally appointed as representatives of various constituencies, it was unanimously determined at the first meeting that each person should endeavor to represent the best interests of the community and the JJML as a whole, rather than represent one point of view.

To assist the CLC with its deliberations, the JJML Board made available the services of the following staff and consultants: Allison Gray, Library Director; Chris Coy, Barnes Coy Architects; Doug Renna, Sullivan & Nickel, Inc. Construction Managers; and Jerry Nichols, Library Consultant.

Community Library Committee Charge

The JJML Board of Trustees gave to the CLC the following charge:

“Evaluate the existing facility needs of the John Jermain Memorial Library in light of its community based service program; investigate all reasonable expansion possibilities and recommend to the Board of Trustees an appropriate plan of action.”

At its first meeting the CLC was presented with five core principles:

  • The existing facility does not meet generally accepted standards of the library field and is not in compliance with the Minimum Standards for Public Library Service of the New York State Education Department.
  • The existing building, given to the Sag Harbor community nearly one hundred years ago by Mrs. Russell Sage, is an irreplaceable landmark that must be treasured and remain an integral part of library service in the community.
  • The JJML must strive to meet the expectations of its community for modern, high quality public library service that is fully accessible to all residents.
  • All reasonable suggestions to meet these challenges should be thoroughly explored.
  • Ultimately it is the responsibility of the JJML Board to develop a proposal that is both acceptable to the community, and addresses these issues in a timely manner.

The CLC subsequently identified several issues that required exploration. Each was thoroughly considered by specific Working Groups or by the CLC as a whole. The primary issues reviewed were:

  • Available sites
  • Community perceptions/expectations
  • Neighboring library services
  • Library needs
  • Purchase of Morpurgo property (6 Union Street)
  • Issues surrounding the “historic triangle,” (including the JJML, Sag Harbor Whaling Museum and SPLIA’s Custom House)
  • Possible uses for the existing building
  • Architectural design
  • Impact of construction
  • Traffic/Parking/Access
  • Long term impact on the neighborhood(s)
  • Cooperation with community organizations
  • Cost projections

Over the course of a full year, the CLC worked as neighbors and as colleagues to understand the challenges facing the JJML and their community. This report represents their best efforts in this regard.

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