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Library books in transit through Sag Harbor

While the John Jermain Memorial Library undergoes renovations

While the John Jermain Memorial Library undergoes renovations through 2013, the library will operate from a temporary location on West Water Street with about 60 percent of its collection available. (June 20, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

In the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor, there are faint brown stains on white walls where water has leaked from the roof. There is a section of ceiling over a window in the stairwell that collapsed. The stained glass dome that illuminates a room on the third floor is clouded and dirty.

The building is 101 years old, and library director Catherine Creedon still sits at the same wood desk as the library’s first director. History hides in every crevice, she explained, which is why when planning the library’s $10-million renovation, which goes into full swing next week, library officials thought carefully about what would change and what would stay the same.

A deep crack in the terrazzo floor that reaches about 10 feet from the library’s front door into the main landing will not be fixed, she said. The crack is believed to be the result of damage done during the infamous hurricane that hit eastern Long Island in 1938.

“We decided to leave this crack,” she said. “It’s part of the way the library has documented the history of Sag Harbor.”

The historic library building’s renovation and expansion was approved by the community in June 2009. Two years later Creedon and her employees were busy sorting books to bring to a temporary space the library will occupy on West Water Street during the renovation.

She said about 60-percent of the library’s collection will be available at Water Street, which she expects to occupy until summer 2013, and the rest of the collection will be available through the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport.

On Monday, the first of the library’s books made the big move. From their shelves in John Jermain they were transferred to movable shelves in the exact order they would be displayed at Water Street. Movers wheeled the shelves into the back of a truck, tied them down and drove them roughly half a mile to the new space. In the bright white rooms of the Water Street building, the books were then transferred again to tall, black metal shelves. They were dusted and ready to be borrowed when the library reopens in the new space on July 1.

Creedon said the library staff sees the temporary location - which is across from the post office and closer to the center of the village - as an opportunity to attract new patrons. She said the library will continue to hold its regular programs and introduce new ones.

As Creedon rode her bike back and forth between the two locations on Monday, answering questions from movers at the new space and advising employees packing up the old space, she said she looked forward to returning to the restored building.

“In 100 years, you accumulate a lot of stuff,” she said. “I think moving back will be easier.”

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