It was such a joy to be in a library other than my own a few days ago! I needed to do some research on a particular topic that my personal library could not satisfy, so I reached out to the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College Resource Centre and Library. And there I was, feasting upon what I love to do most. I was in my seventh heaven! In fact, I really do believe that the real paradise hereafter includes some form of library!
The library is a place that absorbs me to the extent that I just do not want to leave the searching, the finding out, until my hunger is satisfied. It sometimes is, but never completely. I always want to resume, to go back, to find out more, to understand, and then to create! And I know that is also true for many Virgin Islanders and other residents.
The public library is a place of accessing information, a place where one creates knowledge! The library is a community hub that is a centre of learning, professional development, health care, cultural cohesion, and preservation. And — yes! — it is also a place to grow the economy.
The library is a place to get away with books, to ask questions, and to find answers. It is the excitement and thrill of finding out and creating that take over the mind, all in the social setting of a public library.
Despite what you may hear about the death of printed books and the lack of interest in libraries because of the internet takeover, don’t be fooled: There are more libraries in some countries today than restaurants. Of course, libraries today embrace technology to their credit and advantage. In today’s current climate of untruths, intolerance and ignorance, it’s becoming clear that libraries are essential now more than ever.
Of course, the citizens of this territory have been deprived of the benefits libraries offer for many years. Even when there was a reasonable public library service, there has never been a national library building. Oh, how we have deprived our young people of a sense of pride and belonging!
The very basic opportunities of walking up the stairs of “our national library” and delving into the stuff of learning have never been offered. And then when the young people delve into the undesirables, we criticise and despise them. That, Virgin Islanders, is a sad and pitiable state of affairs. It is high time that we begin to put our house in order.
I applaud the recent contribution to the Virgin Gorda Community Library by the Guana Foundation, Unite BVI and others. But nationally, we must do better.
Archives and records
The records and archives are another concern. The preservation of a people’s records is a Biblical principle that no nation should take lightly.
Twelve years ago, the national archives development programme was in high gear. It had the advice and recommendations of top archives repository designers, and the approval of Cabinet. The archives building programme was ready for take-off.
While we are not allocating blame, the department or office responsible should let the public know: 1) What has caused such a well-advanced programme to derail so disastrously; 2) what are the plans to get the programme back on track; and 3) whether there is a succession plan in place for prime archival staff.
A country or territory’s archives and records hold its history, culture and heritage, and their neglect and destruction are as concerning as any matter that was recently investigated in the recent Commission of Inquiry.
As a concerned citizen, I urge the responsible department or office to exercise its executive, professional, ethical and moral responsibility, and let the public know what plans are in place for taking the total archives programme forward, perhaps via a news release, press conference or other means.
Ms. Penn Moll is a former chief records management officer.