Caribbean Libraries

Last year in January, my cousins invited me to visit them in Jamaica – so I accepted.  I hadn’t been there nor seen anyone in that side of the family (save for one cousin who has visited me a couple of times) for 40 years!  Everyone who was a teen then, as I was, is now of an age to have adult children, as I do – and some have grandkids!  My mother’s cousins have similarly aged and are now attended by their grown children, as is my own mother. (Flickr set here.)

As for the country, in spite of its natural beauty, I was struck by the long-term damage from previous hurricanes that they have been unable to repair – roads and bridges still washed out, for example.  There is a lot of poverty there, and the crime rate in the city and some other areas is very high.  However, in the countryside the people are like tropical islanders everywhere: friendly, hospitable, and very generous.

As part of his driving-me-around duties, Peter took me to visit the library at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.  We chatted with his librarian friend and compared notes.  I guess academic libraries are pretty much the same, no matter where you go. UWI is automated, has an ILL system among its campuses, but is restrictive as to use of its collection. My cousin used to be on the University’s faculty, so he still has visiting rights to the library.

I am a public librarian, however, so at last October’s Internet Librarian conference, when I saw the videos of Jamaican public libraries made by the Shanachie guys, it pulled at my heart.  I thought it might be an interesting exercise to do some kind of practicum or exchange program and accomplish two things at the same time: spend more time with my family there and learn about their public library system and maybe perform some service for them.

Which brings me to the book I just picked up today through our Link+ partnership: Caribbean Libraries in the 21st Century: changes, challenges, and choices. (Information Today, Inc., 2007) .  I haven’t had a chance to crack it open yet, but just a quick scan of the table of contents reveals not much about public libraries in Jamaica, my main interest.  It appears little has been written at all about libraries in the Caribbean since the 1970s.  Should be an interesting exercise.


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