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A Rare Library Board Race in Sag Harbor

Thu, 09/21/2023 - 10:31
The John Jermain Memorial Library
Christine Sampson

Other than the occasional loud talker in the quiet area, the John Jermain Memorial Library is a pretty chill place. Next Thursday, however, from 2 to 8 p.m., registered voters in the Sag Harbor School District can show up to vote in a contested library board race, as three candidates are vying for two spots.

The candidates are running for three-year terms that start on Jan. 1.

Megan Curren Schmidt and her family have been patrons of the library for 15 years. “I care deeply about the people who work there, past and present,” she wrote in an email. “I hope as a trustee I can help to enhance the breadth of programming and services that our neighbors need and deserve. . . . I would like to help draw a consistent flow of cultural traffic into the library that represents every corner of our unique village, including the readers, the makers, and the shakers. Libraries are for everyone, and I’d like everyone to know how welcome they are.”

Ms. Curren Schmidt had an early career in publishing but has since been involved mostly with nonprofit development and communications, including as communications director at the Quinipet Camp and Retreat Center on Shelter Island and at the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons Foundation in Wainscott.

Another candidate, Robert J. Ferrari Jr., was born and raised in Brooklyn but wrote in a biographical note on the library website that his earliest connection to the East End “was a hand-carved sea captain with ‘Sag Harbor’ engraved on the pedestal, prominently displayed in my boyhood bedroom, a gift from an uncle who had a home here.”

Mr. Ferrari had a long career on Wall Street and is now at work on a yet-to-be published novel. He and his wife, Jean, bought their Noyac house in 2005 and moved out full time during the pandemic. He found himself spending a lot of time writing in the library rotunda and decided to contact the library for a job, to learn how it operates.

“I thought maybe I can do some good, whether for a kid or an older person. There are all these transformational stories about people who work at libraries and what they do for people,” he said by phone.

The library director told him the place was fully staffed but encouraged him to direct his passion to help as a candidate for the board.

Lisa Frisicano, meanwhile, has lived with her family in Sag Harbor since 1997. “My daughter at 11 months old took her first steps in the library, almost 23 years ago,” she wrote in an email. “Community service is important to me, so with the consideration of my relationship with the library, and the enrichment that I’ve enjoyed, if there’s a way that I can make a positive impact by serving as a trustee, I’d like to do so.”

She is now working part time at the Sag Harbor florist, but is a trained chiropractor, and ran an office with her husband in Southampton. “I’m passionate about healthy aging,” she wrote. “I’d enjoy continued intergenerational programming that provides opportunities for outings, locally and afar, gardening workshops, healthy cooking classes, and other activities that spark a sense of purpose, wellness, and community.”

She has volunteered as a soccer coach and acted as the in-house coordinator and treasurer for the Sag Harbor Youth Soccer League.

Apart from choosing among the three candidates, voters can also say yea or nay to the proposed 2024 budget, which falls below the tax cap but includes a $140,303 increase, which translates to an extra $1.70 per month “for a resident with a home valued at $1,000,000,” according to the library. The total tax levy is $3.23 million.

“This year’s budget includes more money to provide more quality programs for kids, teens, and adults and adding content to our collections,” Kelly Harris, the library’s director, said by email. This means “adding items to our popular and ever-growing Library of Things and digital content,” from downloadable books and audiobooks to streaming films. “The increase also addresses cost increases for insurance, utilities, and staff.”

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