The Editor, Sir:
The National Library of Jamaica, Jamaica Library Service, Jamaica Archives - what's the difference?
There seems to be some confusion in the public's mind as to whether or not the three above-named institutions are one and the same, and if not the same, what the differences are.
To clarify all three agencies are in the business of collecting, organising and disseminating information as a resource for personal and national development, they are three distinct institutions each with a unique area of focus.
The National Library of Jamaica, (NLJ) located at 12 East Street, Kingston, is that institution which prior to 1979 was known as the West India Reference Library (WIRL) and to some as Institute Library. The NLJ was established on the foundation of the WIRL to develop and ensure the most comprehensive collection of national publications; that is the print and non-print publications which originate in Jamaica, as well as those overseas publications about Jamaica and by Jamaicans.
A national library is a particular type of library established by a government and charged with preserving the published expressions of the citizens of the country. In that vein, the NLJ is Jamaica's national library charged to collect, preserve and facilitate access to national publications. As a result, The National Library of Jamaica is a research library and the resources are not loaned for home use but available for consultation.
On the other hand, the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) is not a national library but a public library with a nationwide network of parish libraries, branch libraries, bookmobile stops and school libraries.
Distinguishing features of the JLS are that, unlike the NLJ, its collection is general in scope; preservation is not its remit and one may borrow from its collections.
The Jamaica Archives and Records Department (JARD) is the national archives charged with the collection, preservation and use of those records of government agencies, ministries, committees, boards. etc. which are no longer in current use. The distinguishing feature of the Jamaica Archives is that its remit is mostly with unpublished records while the national library's remit is mostly with publications. JARD operates from the Archives Unit in Spanish Town and the Government Records Centre at 59 Church Street in Kingston.
I hope this has helped to clarify the distinctions and I invite your readers to find out more about these institutions by visiting the websites: www.nlj.org.jm;
I am, etc.,
The National Library of Ja