Sat | Jan 16, 2021

John A. Aarons | Tribute to Professor Fay Durrant

Published:Thursday | January 14, 2021 | 12:14 AM
Professor Fay Durrant
Professor Fay Durrant
John Aarons
John Aarons
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Professor Claudette Fay Durrant, former head of the Department of Library and Information Studies at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, died on January 8. Her passing is being mourned not only by her family, but by the library profession in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as by her former colleagues at the university, especially in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, and her numerous friends around the region.

Since her passing, tributes have been paid to her from former colleagues, students and friends both in Jamaica and elsewhere. They all attest to her warm and friendly personality, her calm disposition, and the ways she served the information profession and the UWI with honour and distinction. Her former students spoke feelingly about her wise counsel and the care, patience and understanding she showed towards them, especially when the going seemed rough. One former student asserted that “her epitaph is uniquely documented” through the lives of the many persons she touched. A former colleague remembered the conscientious manner in which she served on many university committees, and how much her advice was respected and valued.

Professor Durrant was appointed professor and head of the Department of Library and Information Studies at the UWI in 2000 and held this post until 2011. After her retirement, she continued to teach as a part-time lecturer until 2019. She taught and mentored countless number of students who now hold leadership positions in libraries and information institutions around the region.

Notable Contribution to Scholarship

She made a notable contribution to scholarship and practical implementation of modern communication/technology practices through her research interests. Her areas of expertise included telecommunications policies, regional and national information systems, telecentres, knowledge management, e-government, and access to government information. She not only taught courses in these areas, but published articles, compiled reports, and delivered presentations on them at conferences, seminars and workshops in Jamaica and overseas.

She was well qualified to head the regional Library School as she was a strong regionalist, bringing to this position her wide working experience in libraries and information institutions in the Caribbean and Latin America.

After qualifying as a librarian, Professor Durrant began her career at the University Library of Mona (1968-1973) as an assistant librarian, before moving to UWI Library at Cave Hill (1973–1975) in a similar capacity. She then worked as assistant librarian at the Caribbean Community Secretariat in Guyana (1975–1979) before being appointed library and information training officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Trinidad (1979–1983). After a stint as an independent consultant, she joined the staff of the International Development Research Centre of Canada as senior programme specialist, with postings in Latin America (1987–1997).

Between 1997 and 2000, she worked at the secretariat of the Association of Caribbean States in Trinidad & Tobago, where she was the director responsible for coordinating the work of the special committees on science, technology, health, education and culture; and the special committee on budget and administration.

Working Back Home

Returning to Jamaica in 2000, Professor Durrant immersed herself into the library and information sector, serving at various times as a member of the boards of institutions such as the Jamaica Library Service, the National Library of Jamaica, the information committee of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, and on the executive committee of the Library and Information Association of Jamaica (LIAJA). Between 2005-2006, she served as president of LIAJA. In 2006, she was elected to serve a two-year term as vice-president of the Intergovernmental Council for UNESCO’s ‘Information for All Programme’, the objective of which is to narrow the gap between the information rich and poor and to build an information society.

She was a devoted member of Hope United Church and was involved in its management as well as in its outreach work.

Professor Durrant (whose late sister, Ambassador Patricia Durrant died in November 2019) is survived by brothers Nigel and Gerald Durrant.

Article written by John A. Aarons, librarian and archivist on behalf of the library and information community in Jamaica. Email: john.aarons1@gmail.com.