A motorist drives past the new East End/Long Look Community Library Tuesday morning in Major Bay. The facility re-opened Monday after moving from Long Swamp, and it is now the government’s only public library on Tortola. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

After a delay that left Tortola with no public library for more than six months, the East End/Long Look Community Library reopened on Monday at a new location in the Wheatley Building in Major Bay.

The new facility is larger than the previous one in Long Swamp, with 1,700 square feet compared 1,080, and its ground-floor location allows for greater accessibility.

“We know that the library is an integral part of the community, and we are eagerly looking forward to welcoming the public again and meeting their varied information needs,” Chief Librarian Suzanne Greenaway said in a statement.

The branch, which has about 4,400 books, also includes a Caribbean Studies Unit with materials in print and digital form, Ms. Greenaway added. This unit is especially valuable for students when they are assigned school projects, according to the librarian.

“We will always seek to have a marriage between printed books and electronic resources,” she added.


The former library in Long Swamp closed in late July 2023, and it initially was scheduled to reopen at the new location last September. But the move was delayed to allow for remedial works, including electrical upgrades and air-conditioning installations, Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro told the House of Assembly last month.

While the Road Town library remains closed, the Major Bay branch serves as the main library for Tortola.

This means the Library Services administration is located there, working out of the second floor.

The challenge with being the main library, according to Systems Librarian Aurie Lettsome, is that East End receives less foot traffic than Road Town.

The branch, however, is near schools including Willard Wheatley Primary.

Employees work at the East End/Long Look Community Library, which reopened Feb. 19, 2024. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)
Main branch still closed

Meanwhile, Tortola residents are still waiting for the re-opening of the main library branch in Road Town, which closed in early 2016 due to mould and other issues.

Though a new library was being constructed at the former Clarence Thomas Limited building in Pasea, that facility was repurposed after Hurricane Irma to be used by Elmore Stoutt High School students, and it is now slated to be used as the Magistrates’ Court. Since Irma, government officials have been promising to construct a new “national library” as part of the hurricane recovery.

But as with many public sector recovery projects, the effort has been delayed for years in the absence of sufficient recovery funding.

Currently, the Recovery and Development Agency has responsibility for a project, known as Heritage Village, that will include the new library, a national cultural centre, archives, a museum, and accommodation for the BVI Scouts Association and the Girls Guide Association.

“Initial funding [of $110,000] has been secured for the planning phase, part of which will be used to conduct the required geo-technical surveys, which will be used to inform project designs,” Colene Penn, the head of communications at the RDA, told the Beacon.

“Only after the entire planning process is completed, which will include several rounds of stakeholder engagement in addition to community meetings, and the designs finalised, will the project advance to the procurement and ultimately the construction phase.”

Sister islands

The East End library is among three branches currently operational in the Virgin Islands.

The other two are the Anegada Community Library and Virgin Gorda Community Library.

The Jost Van Dyke Library remains closed, but there are plans to add a public library in the same building as the new JVD Primary School, which opened in January.

The VI also lacks a mobile library. The government’s bookmobile — which was purchased in 2004 — was demolished during Hurricane Irma, but even before the storm its operations had ceased due to mechanical problems, Ms. Greenaway told the HOA Standing Finance Committee last year.

Ms. De Castro said in a recent HOA meeting that her ministry had “vigorously advocated” to get it up and running again, but that no funding had been allocated for the purpose.