Residents Gather to Save Library

A powerful sense of community was evident on Sunday when more than 100 people gathered in the hope of saving the Springs Historical Society from dissolution. As with many organizations run by volunteers, maintaining forward motion as the heavy-lifters age, move away, or become interested in other things can be an existential challenge. So it was with the Springs Historical Society, which ran the library but had dwindled to a handful of active members, not even enough for a board of directors, as required by state regulations concerning nonprofits. This put its charter with the State Board of Regents in jeopardy and would shut down its ability to accept tax-deductible contributions.

The Springs Library is in the small, town-owned Parsons House opposite Ashawagh Hall. It opened in 1980 and since then has provided a close-by source of books and videos to borrow as well as a limited schedule of programs for residents of the town’s most-densely populated hamlet. Springs residents have borrowing privileges at the East Hampton Library, too, but the humble library close to home serves its purpose. Among its charms is an ongoing book sale during most of the year, with selections outdoors round the clock under a canopy available on the honor system. It does not have a website and it is open only about 14 hours a week, remaining closed on Thursdays and Sundays for lack of volunteers, we assume.

Coming up with the money to fund the Springs Library and keep the historical society alive has been a challenge over the years. Unlike publicly funded libraries, Springs is run by a private association. This means staff salaries are nearly out of the question, upkeep can be a stretch, and even buying books and DVDs is a challenge. With new and invigorated leadership, more members, and more public attention, in part thanks to the recent crisis, coming up with the necessary cash now appears a possibility.

The outcome of Sunday’s meeting was more than the election of a new board of directors. For every one of the hundred or so people there, you can assume there are several others who use the library from time to time. Libraries today are far more than places to check out books; they are community centers where patrons can find help preparing tax returns, take classes, attend lectures, or sit quietly and read a magazine. Students can get help with homework, work on college essays, or do crafts. Smaller children can hear a story, play with Legos, and learn to socialize with others. 

Springs residents deserve many of these things, and what better place for them than their own library?

Membership, at $15 a year, is a great bargain and helps support the library and society’s work. Checks made out to the Springs Historical Society can be mailed to P.O. Box 1860, East Hampton 11937. We encourage everyone who loves books, history, or a sense of place to sign up. It will be money well spent.