Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Nicholas Graham | Justice for St James Parish Library

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I must respond to an article published on October 10, 2018, captioned 'MoBay mayor wants 'justice centre' at library location'. In that article, the mayor made a recommendation "to demolish the St James Parish Library" in order for the Government to "build a multi-storey judiciary complex there".

I felt very uncomfortable with the manner in which the mayor referred to the library and wondered whether its location at Meagre Bay Road was what caused the mayor to treat it with such scant regard.

The history of the St James Parish Library and its contribution to the parish dates back as far as 1944, when it began with a small collection of just over 500 books and was borne out of a need by the community for library services. Seventy-four years later, that need is still evident, as the collection has grown to more than 50,000 books, and the library has an active membership of 11,000-plus users.

In fact, for the period April 2017-March 2018, the number of items in the collection utilised by the public was well over 105,000, and the number of users of ICT resources above 104,000. The library also serves, on average, more than 400 people daily.

Not only does the library provide access to books and other reading material for education and research, it also offers ICT training to senior citizens, as well as for the disabled.




So when the mayor urges the Government to "take bold steps and do what is right", what is right in this case would be to mirror the steps taken by First-World countries, which is to protect the chief cornerstones of communities. In First-World countries, the library is not tacked on to some other building, as the mayor has recommended, but stands as majestic centrepieces.

Mr Mayor, development should always be for the better, and there is no doubt that the library plays a critical role in St James' ecosystem.

I, therefore, urge him to devise a solution that creates a balance between maximising scarce land resources while protecting the residents of St James, and especially the very vulnerable members of our society for who libraries like these are their only source of accessing information in whatever format, for their personal development.

I unreservedly reaffirm the point that libraries will remain as gateways to national development. However, development, Mr Mayor, at the expense of public institutions such as this library, is akin to cutting off one's nose in order to spite one's face.

If Jamaica is to achieve five-in-four and Vision 2030, we will need libraries, as they continue to make an immense contribution to us achieving national goals.

It would be remiss of the Government to "take a bold step" and do "what is right" by "getting rid of the library", as it remains a pillar of the community.

- Nicholas Graham is president of the Library and Information Association of Jamaica. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and liajapresident@yahoo.com.