Prendergast Library Needs Solutions, Not Protests

We have heard a lot of reasons for and against the James Prendergast Library Association’s decision to sell art purchased with money from the estate of Mary Prendergast.

It is wonderful to have a nice art collection in the Prendergast Library, but not at the expense of cutting the library’s hours in half, ending programs that help people learn the skills they need to survive in the 21st century or allowing the library’s collection to become so dated that it becomes useless.

Facebook and online petitions make it incredibly easy to protest the sale of the library’s artwork. Solutions, not protests and finger-pointing, are what library users need right now. And so, we say the best way to save those paintings is for those who feel so strongly about them to step up to raise the money – every year, year after year – that is needed to fund the library operations.

The paintings the library board is proposing to sell did not come from the collections of local residents. They were bought with money from Mary Prendergast’s estate. They have no local connection. They are not local historical objects. They are assets the library board proposes to use to try to help ensure the library continues to exist. The Prendergast Library is a library, not a chartered historical museum nor an art museum. While it is wonderful for people to be able to see those paintings, true art museums are no farther away than the excellent Erie Art Museum and the world-renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Again, if people passionately feel that Jamestown should have an art museum, then they should help raise the money to pay for it, not just sit on the sidelines and tell other people to go do the heavy lifting.

Best of all, we think, is that the library board intends to use proceeds from the sale of these valuable paintings for an endowment so that the money will continue to fund the library operations in perpetuity. They have their eye on the future, not just the 2015 or 2016 operating budgets. The mission of the “James Prendergast Library is to provide access to information resources, staff, facilities and services that respond to the pursuit of knowledge, education, lifelong learning opportunities and cultural enrichment by the people of the City of Jamestown and Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.”

By keeping paintings of local historical value and interest and by selling paintings that were originally purchased for the library with money from the estate of Mary Pendergast, the library board has found a thoughtful and self-sustaining way to help ensure the library will survive in order to fulfill that mission.

If there’s a better plan out there, let’s hear it.