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Oct 16, 2018 3:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Springs Historical Society Sees An Infusion Of New Enthusiasm

Springs Library.  KYRIL BROMLEY
Oct 16, 2018 4:27 PM

With not an empty seat in the Springs Community Presbyterian Church, dozens of Springs residents elected a batch of new board members on Sunday to the Springs Historical Society—potentially infusing new life that will make it possible for the society to continue to run the Springs Library, which has been in danger of losing its nonprofit status.

“We had over a hundred people attend our meeting today, and the enthusiasm was wonderful,” the historical society boasted afterward on its Facebook page. “We have a new Board of Directors, and many volunteers to help them re-energize our society. Thanks to all our long-term supporters, and welcome to our new members.”

Before Sunday’s meeting, only two Springs Historical Society board members remained of the once seven-member board, and the lack of participation meant that a provisional charter that grants the library tax-exempt and nonprofit status was in danger of expiring.

The meeting was called to raise awareness about the dwindling leadership of the historical society, and Donald Sussis and Martin Drew, both of whom were hoping to be elected the society’s president on Sunday, gave short speeches.

Then a vote was taken the old-fashioned way—by a show of hands.

Arms shot up in the packed audience as Mr. Sussis’s name was announced. He was unanimously elected as the new president, while Donna Potter was chosen as vice president, Ethel Henn as treasurer, and Jackie Wilson as secretary.

The directors of the society include Hugh King, a retired Springs School teacher of 31 years and historic site manager for East Hampton Village; Abby Abrams, a local artist with roots in Springs; and Richard Barons, who once served as the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society.

Mr. Drew, a lifelong Springs resident who referred to himself as a “Bonacker,” expressed concern about a lack of lifelong Springs residents on the new board.

Heather Anderson, who has been a member of the historical society since 1985, commended everyone for their “positive energy.”

The Springs Library is located in the 167-year-old Ambrose Parsons House, which, according to Ms. Anderson, once belonged to Elizabeth Parker Anderson, a local artist. Later, Ms. Parker Anderson, who had no children, donated the home along with the acre of property the home sits on to the Town of East Hampton to use as a library. In 1995, the Ambrose Parsons House was named to the national registry of historic places.

Currently, the library is run by the Springs Historical Society and staffed by volunteers, the youngest volunteer being 67, Ms. Anderson told the audience on Sunday. Eleven steady volunteers work the desk, organize books and maintain the outdoor book sale. “In the middle of summer, that’s an awful job when it’s 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity,” Ms. Anderson said of the book sale.

“The Springs Library itself is doing very well—we have several volunteers, but we would always love to have additional people,” Ms. Anderson said. “We’d love to have people who are a little more technically savvy.”

Currently, the library holds a weekly Saturday morning story time for Springs’ youngest residents. During the meeting, residents offered their thoughts about getting involved and enhancing library activities, including the possibility of holding book clubs, art shows and movie nights, and of adding other committees. Many expressed their desire to join the historical society or volunteer at the library.

The larger libraries in Montauk, Amagansett and East Hampton are supported by property taxes, but, according to Ms. Anderson, the state doesn’t grant charters to small community libraries such as the Springs Library. Some of the requirements include serving thousands of people a year, and having a library director with a degree in library science—so, for now, the library depends on its nonprofit status.

“If the Springs Historical Society went under, then the library as it currently operates would not be viable,” Ms. Anderson said.

Three years ago the Hilaria and Alec Baldwin Foundation gave the Springs Library a yearly $5,000 gift certificate from BookHampton, but, according to Ms. Anderson, the library lost a major source of income when East Hampton Town deemed the second-floor book sale room to be unsafe. The old library building couldn’t handle the weight of 8,000 books, according to Town Engineer Tom Talmage, Ms. Anderson pointed out.

Ms. Anderson noted that the library tried selling and donating the books, but to no avail. In July, workers from the Highway Department embarked on a three-day project to dispose of the books.

The first duty of the new board will be to update and revise the bylaws in order to meet New York State approval, and work on filing a new charter for the historical society in order for the Springs Library to keep its current tax-exempt and nonprofit status.

“You don’t have to be a member of the historical society to be a member of the library,” Ms. Anderson noted. There is a $10 fee to be a member of the library, and a $15 fee to be a member of the historical society.

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