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Sep 18, 2019 1:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

John Jermain Memorial Library Trustee Election and Budget Vote Next Week

John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon leads a budget hearing and trustee forum on Monday. Kathryn G. Menu
Sep 18, 2019 1:46 PM

Voters registered in the Sag Harbor School District will weigh in next Thursday on a proposed $3.098 million 2020 budget for the John Jermain Memorial Library, and choose three of six candidates hoping to be elected to the library’s board of trustees.

On Monday evening, a handful of residents and current trustees gathered at the library for a public hearing on the budget, which drew no comments from the gallery, and to hear from trustee candidates about their priorities for the future of JJML, much of which focused on growing the library’s usership as it continues to expand programming.

According to JJML Director Catherine Creedon, the budget — $2,869,889 of which is generated by the tax levy — represents a 2.8-percent increase over the current spending plan, and will remain below the state-mandated 2-percent property tax levy cap. The average property owner in Southampton Town can expect a 0-percent increase in library-related taxes, said Ms. Creedon on Monday, with East Hampton Town residents looking at an increase of roughly $5 per year for a home valued at $500,000.

The library board, said Ms. Creedon, has committed to raising 7 percent of its budget through donations and grants — the largest amount the library has ever committed to raise for its budget, she noted. The library is also committed to continue to expand its programming, she added.

Incumbent board member Dan Glass was joined Monday night by candidates Elliot Sroka, Bob Weinstein and former JJML board member and past president Michael Garabedian, who is now eligible to seek election to the board after a hiatus. Candidates Patricia McCormick and Charles Stevenson were unable to attend the session, although Ms. McCormick submitted a statement and Mr. Stevenson reached out to The Express after the session to talk about why he was running for the board.

Mr. Glass, who moved to his wife’s native Sag Harbor in 1997, said he was drawn to the board as a regular library user, who is often found at JJML with his daughter, Emily, a 10th-grader at Pierson Middle-High School. “I enjoy the collection,” he said. “I love the staff here.”

Mr. Glass said he would like to see the library revisit its spaces to see if it can be better utilized now that it has had several years in the expanded building.

Mr. Sroka, the former executive director of the Tilles Center, is retired and living full-time in Sag Harbor. On Monday, he said his goal is to give back to the community and support the values of history, education and tradition that are found at JJML.

Mr. Sroka said his experience at the Tilles Center would be valuable as a board member. Looking toward a future where fiduciary responsibility needs to be balanced with ensuring JJML has a robust staff, Mr. Sroka said he would look at other communities as models for ideas how to achieve both in an area that is increasingly difficult to afford to live in.

“When you have a money problem, one of the solutions is to raise more money,” he added.

A long-time supporter of the library, and a member of the boards of Save Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, Bob Weinstein said he felt it was time to apply the skills he developed in his marketing and communications firm to help the library grow into its role as a “modern-day community center,” to quote the Library Trustees Association of New York State.

“Libraries are indeed the cornerstone of our democracy, and our library, the heart and soul of our community,” he said.

Mr. Weinstein said he would like to see JJML partner with other cultural institutions, perhaps including staffing. He suggested programming could reach a wider audience through more targeted marketing.

Mr. Garabedian, an attorney with Egan & Golden, LLP, serves on a number of nonprofit boards including Hopscotch Adoptions and Operation International, Ltd. He called on the board to ensure the library was a place for everyone, including youth.

“It is incumbent upon each trustee to ensure the lofty goals and ideals of the library are met, to nourish young and old minds alike and to provide a safe, clean and welcoming environment to all who walk through these doors or log-on via the library’s internet portal,” he said later.

Mr. Garabedian suggested when looking at supporting its staff, JJML should seek to fundraise for specific programming and look to donors to supplement its income that way.

Charles Stevenson, a resident of Sag Harbor Hills who is retired there after years of service in the New York State Court System as a court officer, said in a separate interview on Wednesday that he was running, in part, to include a more diverse population of residents in programming and exhibits at JJML.

“I would like to see more inclusion of minorities,” he said. “I think the library is doing a tremendous job — it is doing things that have not been done before to get people in the door and get a book in their hands. But I think inclusion is the main thing.”

Ms. Creedon read a statement from Patricia McCormick, who like Mr. Stevenson was unable to attend Monday night due to family commitment. Ms. McCormick is the co-author of “I am Malala” with Malala Yousafszai, the Pakistani teen who was targeted by the Taliban for promoting education for girls.

“With this glorious new facility and its outstanding leadership, we are poised to build on the library’s success — to increase outreach, expand literacy and serve as an impartial, up-to-date and accessible resource,” she wrote. “The library is a vibrant, central pillar — in the educational, civic, cultural and recreational life of the community.”

The trustee budget vote will take place on Thursday, September 26, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the library. For more information, visit johnjermain.org.

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