Everything Old Is New Again at John Jermain Library

“The building shimmers again.” Catherine Creedon, Director of the John Jermain Memorial Library (JJML), is talking about how the restoration to the original mortar has made the historic building shimmer in the sunlight once more, but the library itself is shining brighter today than ever before. The physical restoration being done to the Sag Harbor staple is nothing short of remarkable. Building Conservation Associates (BCA), an award-winning firm whose other restoration projects have included the likes of Rockefeller Center, did extensive chemical analysis of the building’s mortar and were able to restore it using sand from Roanoke.

As JJML makes progress in its ongoing expansion project this year, Creedon remains at the forefront of the historical library’s continued development. Creedon was named Sag Harbor Person of the Year in 2010 for her efforts in restoring JJML’s role as a cultural institution and place of learning for the community, and it’s not hard to see why. Thanks to Creedon, the expansion will modernize the library while still respecting and honoring its rich heritage.

JJML’s $2.1 million budget was approved last September with overwhelmingly positive response, 88% of the vote favoring the library. The library has also applied for a grant through the National Endowment for the Arts, and the expansion is being made possible through generous donations. “I’ve been a librarian for 35 years, and people love [their libraries], but this has gone beyond anything I’ve seen,” Creedon says of the donors.

The terra-cotta dome on the third floor, one of the building’s most distinctive features, was recently renovated, causing some unexpected challenges. The dome had been terribly corroded over the years, forcing the building team to create a new compression ring while they worked. With the dome renovated, Creedon says that the antique furniture is being restored as well. “It’s 103-year-old furniture, including my desk,” Creedon marvels. Her desk is the same desk used by every other director in JJML’s history. Ed Dombrowski of Water Mill is restoring each piece of furniture with the utmost care.

In addition to JJML’s physical expansion, the library is constantly evolving. In recent months, the library has replaced the computers in the children’s area with permanently mounted iPads that contain games and educational material. There are also two iPads in circulation, as well as a Kindle and Nook for those who want to try eBooks before purchasing a reader. Creedon also noted that the library will soon have a Kindle Fire accessible to patrons that will be loaded with Spanish-language material—something Creedon believes will be very popular with students of the Spanish class, one of the many programs JJML offers the Sag Harbor community.

The enthusiasm and involvement of the library’s patrons is key to JJML’s growth. With a full schedule of classes, activities and other events, there’s always something happening. Creedon has exciting plans and initiatives in place to engage patrons on a whole other level, including the development of a “creative content lab” with music- and video-editing software and possibly a 3D printer. This is also a way, according to Creedon, to honor the “amazingly rich musical heritage” of Sag Harbor; local musicians are now able to bring their original music CDs and have them catalogued at the library, allowing their work to be heard by a wider audience.

The library has also asked the community for help in renaming their online reference section. “It’s Germane,” JJML’s official weblog, is consistently updated with informational material, along with book suggestions and community news. Additionally, various Sag Harbor historical documents have been donated to the library for display.

Creedon is proud of the expansion and restoration, but also excited for what the expansion can do for the patrons of the library. “For all of us here, what we see is how the expansion and restoration will allow us to deliver a really high level of service to the community,” Creedon says with infectious enthusiasm. We can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next.

The library is temporarily located at 34 West Water Street in Sag Harbor. Check out the original building at 201 Main Street, and view more pictures of the construction here.

Visit johnjermain.org.

JJML construction helmets

Photo: Oliver Peterson

BACK TO Featured Stories