Article published in the October 1, 2017 edition of the Jamestown Post Journal, filed under “Viewpoints”

Dear Editor:

I read with more than a little interest the Local Commentary concerning the Prendergast Library’s art collection in last Sunday’s newspaper. I believe the article misrepresents some facts that I now attempt to correct.

First, the Prendergast Library Board had two concerns about the Marion’s offer to buy the collection. The first concern pertains to the 2016 agreement between the Library and Mr. Marion. The Library agreed not to sell its art collection in 2016 and, in return, Mr. Marion promised to pay the library $60,000 to be paid in two installments of $30,000 each.

Mr. Marion paid the first installment of $30,000 but did not pay the second installment. The Library sent invoices to Mr. Marion in the second half of 2016 and again in January 2017. In short, Mr. Marion still owes the Library $30,000. I can tell you that the Prendergast Library Board held as significant this missed payment.

The article also fails to mention the role of the New York Attorney General, who objected to the Library’s potential deal with Mr. Marion. Accepting an offer from Mr. Marion meant protracted litigation with the Attorney General with no guaranteed outcome. The Prendergast Library Board believed that continued litigation with the Attorney General was not in the best interests of the Library.

Considering the issue with the non-payment of the second $30,000 installment and the Attorney General’s objection, the Prendergast Library Board believed that auctioning the art collection was the best choice.

Next, the Prendergast Library Board never intended to renovate the Fireplace Room in the event Mr. Marion bought the library’s art collection. Mr. Marion and I had several conversations on this point. At best, the Library was willing to hold the collection for one year after the date of sale so that Mr. Marion could find a new location for the art collection.

The Fireplace Room is located in the original building of the Library. The walls of the Fireplace Room are anywhere from 12 to 18 inches thick depending on the location. Additionally, the Library uses the City’s district heating system. This is the same baseboard heat that was damaging the art collection. These factors alone make renovating the Fireplace Room very expensive.

In addition to the physical plant, the Library’s strategic plan, made with community input, calls for the Library to no longer act as an art gallery. The Library plans to make some minor renovations to the Fireplace Room that fall in line with our strategic plan. The Library looks forward to more effective use of the Fireplace Room.

My last comments pertain directly to the group of people loosely known as “Save Local Art.” This group simply was not present when the Library experienced financial setbacks over the last 18 months. This group refused to help the Library with fundraising. This group did not help at all with the June 2016 funding vote. This group was nowhere to be found when the City cut $250,000 from the Library for 2017. This group does a great job at complaining but a poor job at helping.

I sincerely thank the other Library board members, Executive Director Tina Scott, the Library staff, and all those in our community who support the Library.

R. Thomas Rankin is president of the James Prendergast Library Board of Trustees.