Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Editors' Forum | Libraries still relevant

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris - Staff Reporter
David Drysdale, librarian at the University of Technology, addresses a Gleaner Editors’ Forum while Kishma Simpson, director, Public Library Network, Jamaica Library Service, looks on.
Nicholas Graham, president of the Library and Information Association of Jamaica.

With visits to public libraries islandwide being in excess of 2.1 million in the last year, and even more accessing their services offsite, library officials are confident they will continue to remain relevant, despite increasing access to digital technology.

“The library is not a building, it is not bound by walls anymore,” noted librarian at The University of Technology, David Drysdale.

“They [users] don’t necessarily have to go in to the library, the library goes to them wherever they are. The library resources are made available to them wherever they are. So, for instance, I can jump in right now and I can access my catalogue back home. I can download e-books,” Drysdale told editors and reporters during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum at the newspaper’s North Street, Kingston, offices last Thursday.

Online usage rising

President of the Library and Information Association of Jamaica, Nicholas Graham, admitted that while there has been a decrease in onsite usage at the National Library of Jamaica, where he is the deputy director, online usage has been on the increase.

“Right now we have persons from as far as Australia that are getting information from our website in terms of the resources that we have available through that portal,” he said.

“The fact that we are able to reach persons way beyond our borders, way beyond our shores, in as much more significant numbers than what would have been onsite, shows that the libraries have an even greater reach than would have been the case in the past when persons would literally have to walk in to access the facilities,” he added.

There are currently more than 116 public libraries in Jamaica but, in addition to this, there are several academic and private libraries. Some of these libraries have been established by corporate companies.

Kishma Simpson, director of the Public Library Network of the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), said that based on strategic reviews, there have been changes over the years. These reviews have resulted in the closure or relocation of some libraries and the opening of new ones, and have guided their decisions on what improvements to make to meet demands.

“The public library actually does training in social media [and] digital literacy. We have frequent cohorts of senior citizens that we train on how to access social media so that they are not left behind and they are a part of the process,” Simpson said.

She said that at the end of March this year, they had trained more than 15,000 people islandwide in how to access and utilise the technology.

Drysdale said information professionals are continuously being trained to package and disseminate information.

“The fact is that there is so much that we are hearing now about fake news and alternative truths and all these kinds of terms that people have been coming up with. Who is it that is going to be the gatekeeper? Who is it that is going to help us to sift through the information that is there and give the correct information to the correct persons at the right time? These are the exclusive domains of librarians,” he argued.

“The fact that you have information in electronic formats and e-books and all of that, it is librarians who are still behind the scenes doing all of the work.”