New Nexus for Music

A thriving, year-round community of musicians on the South Fork allowed the creation of a local collection
Eric Cohen, the John Jermain Memorial Library’s coordinator of technology and media Morgan McGivern

    A search, via its Web site, of the John Jermain Memorial Library’s catalog will yield a wealth of media, from literature to periodicals to DVDs.

    A search of the Sag Harbor library’s Web site will also reveal a collection, now numbering approximately 100, of CDs produced by local artists. Recently added titles include “Go West” by Inda Eaton, “Time Bomb Love” by the Glazzies, “Smoke and Mirrors” by Joe Delia and Thieves, and a CD compilation of live recordings of the Thursday Night Live Band from the weekly jam sessions at Bay Burger, also in Sag Harbor.

    The collection, said Eric Cohen, the library’s coordinator of technology and media, was conceived last year after he had returned from a biannual conference for public libraries. “I went to a presentation on idiosyncratic local collections,” he said. “The people doing it were really talking about a collection of zines” — the small-circulation, self-published magazines that flourished in the pre-World Wide Web era — “but then they mentioned, at the end, that they were also starting a local music collection.”

    A thriving, year-round community of musicians on the South Fork allowed the creation of a local collection, Mr. Cohen said. Last year, shortly before Sag Harbor’s Great American Music Festival, he proposed the idea to Catherine Creedon, the library’s director, who, he said, was “very enthusiastic.” Kelly Connaughton, the festival’s organizer, was similarly enthusiastic, and connected Mr. Cohen with some participating local artists. “I was able to get them to donate albums,” he said. “It took off from there.”

    Mr. Cohen reached out to the music community by contacting local media, including The Star and radio stations, and posted an appeal for donated CDs on the library’s Web site, newsletter, and Facebook page. “And when I go to music events — I attended this year’s festival again — I ask for albums,” he said, “if I can get near artists.” To date, he said, no one has declined to donate work.

    The collection, which represents some 60 artists, includes both the celebrated and the lesser known, united only by their residency. That means that local favorites including Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, Ms. Eaton, Michael Weiskopf, InCircles, Caroline Doctorow, Mr. No-Shame, and the HooDoo Loungers are alongside Judy Carmichael, the renowned stride pianist, who lives in Sag Harbor, and another well-known pianist and vocalist, Billy Joel.

    With its collection, the library has assumed a role as a nexus for local music in the way that Crossroads Music and the Stephen Talkhouse, both in Amagansett, provide the community with musical-instrument sales and instruction and a live-performance venue. Another common denominator is MonkMusic Studios in East Hampton, the recording and mixing studio owned and operated by Cynthia Daniels, a Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer. Many of the titles represented in the library’s collection were produced at Ms. Daniels’s studio.

    “It was an honor to be asked to contribute to the collection as a member of the local music community,” Ms. Eaton wrote in an e-mail. It was after an appearance at the Great American Music Festival, she said, that she was asked to submit a copy of “Go West,” her latest release. “Go West,” she wrote, is “an Americana roots rock-style album and features appearances by some of my East End favorites: Lee Lawler [of the band MamaLee Rose and Friends], Nancy Atlas, and Caroline Doctorow.” The album was recorded by Ms. Daniels at MonkMusic Studios.

    “We are proud to be included in the local music collection,” Mr. Casey, a former Sag Harbor resident who now lives on the North Fork, wrote in an e-mail. In establishing the collection, Mr. Cohen had contacted him seeking his recordings. “We were more than happy to contribute. We have a lot of fans and friends in Sag Harbor who might not come across our recorded original music otherwise,” Mr. Casey wrote. “For 20 years I was a Sag Harbor resident and frequent visitor to the library, so it is especially nice to ‘leave something behind,’ so to speak, for others to (I hope) enjoy.”

    “Like the community at large, our local music community is generous beyond words,” Ms. Eaton wrote. “To be included in this collection is a tremendous honor.”

    Mr. Cohen initially hoped to implement an audio-streaming function by way of the library’s Web site so that patrons could listen to the collection remotely, but it has proven challenging on multiple fronts. “It’s challenging my technical skills,” he said, and “in order to make it to legal, we have to have an agreement with artists,” as well as a means to authenticate that listeners are patrons of the library. Most artists, he believes, would not be in favor of allowing their work to be freely downloaded. The library’s officials, he said, are considering paying artists an honorarium for online performance of their work, but that remains under discussion.

    Until such a function is implemented, listeners can obtain a sizable and still-growing collection in a physical format by visiting the library. Since contributing his music, Mr. Casey wrote, “several fans have mentioned they discovered one of our songs on local radio and were able to find it at the Jermain library. Perfect!”