I was very pleased to see that the editor of The BVI Beacon still thinks that a public library is of significant value to the community: so much so that it was included in the “12 better uses for the $120k” editorial of Nov. 4, as follows: “Road Town has not had a public library since 2016. The $120,000 should be enough to fund an interim solution, such as a small temporary facility or a resumption of the bookmobile programme.” The BVI Beacon has, since its inception, penned several very bold editorials over the years on the need and value of a proper national library and archives repository, but, alas, the calls have fallen on ears not as sensitive to such need.
Government after government has been quite content to rent makeshift buildings at astronomical costs that could have built a decent public library years ago. I do not understand that mentality. But the premier and finance minister has just announced a little short of a $400 million budget, together with the pledge of prioritising education. The authorities should know that one of the basic rungs of infrastructure for progressive education is access to a modern public library not only for students, but for the populace as well. So we wait to hear where that provision falls within the overall national plan.
What about the archives? In 2007, with the assistance of the International Records Management Trust, an IRMT consultant with the National Archives at Kew, United Kingdom, was invited to assess the territory’s existing archives and records management policy processes and to deliver a proposal with cost estimates for an archive building to accommodate an integrated ARM programme. His report was submitted to Cabinet with recommendations and advice.
A site was earmarked for the archives building, and three years later, in 2010, on request of the Cabinet, a Road Map for the National Archives Repository Building Programme was submitted. It included suggestions for an income-generating plan and recommendations for an architectural firm to design the building. Cabinet also approved the establishment of the Archives Fund, into which monies could be paid directly.
The programme was in high gear and ready for take-off. The members of Friends of the National Archives were energised for the cause. One must therefore inquire of the Deputy Governor’s Office, under which the programme was initiated, what has happened to the programme? Why is the programme stagnated, and what is the plan for its resuscitation?
So often we hear officials airing platitudes about history, heritage and culture on various platforms, but how much effort is being put into developing the archives building programme, the institution responsible for maintaining all three, through the preservation of our records? It is a very basic requirement.
Perhaps we should be inquiring into why those two basic institutions have not yet been built in a territory which had the money that could have been allocated. In fact, the UK government should be embarrassed that after over 300 years one of its remaining territories is still without a basic public library. Surely, they must be aware of that fact. So why haven’t they used their influence and good graces to initiate and drive such a project? Oh, forgive me, it’s a modern partnership and the other half should at least present a plan!
Personally, I would have directed the other $5 million, which is really an unnecessary waste of taxpayers’ money, into the Archives Fund.