I was pleased to read in a recent issue of The BVI Beacon that Cabinet has approved a new location at Major Bay for the East End/Long Look Community Library.
Library development in the eastern end of Tortola has had an interesting past. A few years after Thomas D. Green established The Virgin Islands Public Library in Road Town in 1943, he established branch libraries, also called deposit stations, in villages and schools in the various districts throughout Tortola and in the sister islands.
Teachers ran the school collections, and volunteers from the community ran the branches serving the public outside school time. Iva Varlack ran the East End Branch Library, which was open to the public on Saturday afternoons. The branch library was maintained by the VI Public Library, being the headquarters, and Public Library staff visited periodically.
After some time, the East End Branch Library floundered, but the reading public was served via a bookmobile service which the then-librarian operated from her own vehicle. In 1973, the service was upgraded, and the public was served from a purpose-built bookmobile vehicle funded by the British Council.
Ten years later, in 1983, the librarian (of the VI Public Library) negotiated with the owners of the late Evelyn Rabsatt’s building at Major Bay, to rent the place in order to house the East End Branch Library. That facility and the school library merged to become a dual-purpose library, serving both the public and the school, with Valiska Philips in charge.
When the landlord needed the building for another purpose, the library headquarters at Road Town was again on the hunt for suitable accommodation for the East End branch. When Peter Moll served as chief librarian (1986-1988), he negotiated with Dr. Quincy Lettsome to rent the Lettsome Building for the purpose. The branch library was therefore relocated to the Lettsome Building at Long Swamp, and it was termed The East End/Long Look Community Library. Lynden Smith, an educator and reading enthusiast, had accumulated a collection of books from her book-related contacts, and had donated them to the effort as well.
The branch has served the community well for some 33 years, and after Hurricane Irma it was the only operating library in the territory for some time, and indeed the one from which the headquarters operated. It was therefore good to read that Cabinet has approved a new accommodation in Major Bay to facilitate the re-location of the library service in the East End/Long Look area.
P.S. I am grateful that the document from which I gathered the facts and dates for this article has survived Hurricane Irma.
Ms. Penn Moll served as librarian of the VI Public Library Services from 1965-1986.