Despite the challenges of the last few weeks, it has been an incredible joy to watch my colleagues reimagine and deliver John Jermain’s mission by way of a full-service library without walls. Even if most of what we are doing is digital, there are bestsellers and movies to borrow, and craft and exercise classes to attend. We answer reference questions, help with research, and build community. If you haven’t checked out our Friday night Trivia you really should—although the competition is too much for me!
We’ve also initiated brand-new programming, inspired by our yearning to connect with our patrons. One of the most exciting of these initiatives is our “Local Spotlight” series, a collection of oral histories conducted by JJML Assistant Director Wonda Miller. These interviews celebrate the diversity of Sag Harbor, from Main Street merchants to elected officials, and are a tribute to the different ways we have made do and done without during the pandemic. For future generations they will stand as a permanent reminder of how we survived, and how we rebuild.
Recently Wonda spoke with Sag Harbor Police Chief A. J. McGuire about how the past weeks have shaped him and the work he does: more Zoom, more statistics, more meetings. I was more struck by his answer to her question about whether or not he had seen anything like this before:
A. J. had just finished training in 1995 and was working with the East Hampton Volunteer Fire Department when he was called to help with the “Sunrise Wildfire” that jumped the highway destroying acres of the Pine Barrens ecosystem. He told Wonda that he thought to himself: “Wow, I’m never going to see anything like that again.”
Just a year later, in July 1996, he was working with the Suffolk County Park Police and was called out when TWA Flight 800 exploded off the coast of Westhampton. “…never going to see anything like that again.”
Five years after that, he was among the East End’s first responders to the devastation of 9/11. “…hoped never to see anything like that again.” Although the Covid-19 pandemic is a “completely different animal” his past experiences have given him the opportunity to “learn how to deal with tragedy.”
When I first saw the name of Wonda’s series listed as “Local Spotlight” I pictured the library shining a light on our patrons by giving them a chance to share their stories. I was wrong. Our patrons are the beacons, and their stories can help us see who we are—and more importantly, how we can travel to where we need to be next.
Catherine Creedon, Director firstname.lastname@example.org