Pember’s deed does not support school district library

B y Jaime Thomas

While several local officials have made clear they don’t support the Pember Library and Museum becoming a school district library, the Pember’s deed more clearly addresses the plan.

The 1909 deed, signed by Franklin and Ellen Pember, states the Pember Library board shall be appointed by the Granville Village Board. The deed also specifically rejects the idea of a popular election of the library board.

It reads: “trustees shall not or any of them be elective or…. at any time be elected by popular vote of the said village.”  It continues: “Our purpose and intent being to keep the trustees of said library and museum free from politics and political influence.”

The Pember Library and Museum board hopes to change the funding of the Pember and have it become a school district library. To do this, they state that members of the library board would be elected by the voters of the Granville School District in a popular election. This is in direct contradiction to the Pember deed.

Should a popular vote elect the trustees, which happens with school district libraries, the library would go back to its original owners or their heirs, according to the deed. That would mean, ideally, the heirs of Franklin and Ellen Pember would take back possession of the library and all its contents.

Robert Schofield, the Pember’s attorney, does not see a problem with this stipulation. He said it would be unethical for him to discuss how the library would address the issues in the deed, but that he was looking into the matter.

“There are a bunch of different ways that could be changed, assuming something like that was an impediment at all,” he said.

But Village Attorney Michael Martin sees the problem differently.

“If they go to a school district library, the penalty for violating (the deed) is to revert back. I don’t think they have a way to do it,” Martin said. “The village owns the museum and its contents, and the village is not agreeable to give that up.”

He said the nature of the original deed was to keep the library as an entity that was above politics. However, if library officials should try to get on the school ballot, which would mean taxpayers would support the Pember, Martin said the village would intervene.

“The village would take action as soon as they took any steps,” he said. He said he has been in contact with District Attorney Tony Jordan and has requested he do a grand jury investigation of the matter. Jordan had not yet decided whether to take on the case as of Wednesday morning.

Martin said he would ask Jordan to investigate the Comptroller’s report and library spending.

“There’s stuff that needs to be brought to light and looked into. The village and town are absolutely right in questioning them,” he said. ““I don’t see anything where they’ve limited spending; they’re looking at another source of funding from taxpayers.”

Wesner, though, said there were times when she refused her own paycheck in order to keep the library solvent.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I care about the place, and I care about the people. We’re just trying to keep the place open.”

As far as claims that the library has been in discussion with the Granville School District, School Board President John Shaw said he is not aware of that.

“I personally have never had contact with them about the predicament they’re in. The way the events have gone down, I would not even consider it,” he said, referring to the Pember becoming a school district library.

He went on to say that he does not believe the library is the taxpayer’s burden and that the district is already lacking state aid.

“They say it will not cost the schools, but let’s be real—it’s going to cost the schools,” he said. He also questioned the library’s hiring of Libby Post for communication purposes.

“Where are they getting the $3,000 a month to pay that consultant who says comments like ‘this is a witch hunt?’ It’s getting more ridiculous with every statement they make down there.”

Martin said the Pember has always been a local gem, and he hopes “the public will come out and support the town and village’s position.

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