New wing at National Library opened

By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
January 21, 2001

THE $600M extension to the National Library at Church Street and Avenue of the Republic was on Friday declared officially open amidst pomp and ceremony.

President Bharrat Jagdeo upon whom accolades were showered for his contribution to making the extension project a reality, unveiled the plaque and delivered the feature address. He was also the first among four persons to be honoured at the ceremony for their involvement in the promotion of the Library's literacy programme.

Among the other persons honoured were Mrs. Janet, outstanding Journalist and Member of the National Library, and Ms. Anna Benjamin - Journalist. A Posthumous Award was also conferred on the late A.J Seymour - Distinguished Guyanese/Caribbean Poet and Anthologist. Mr. Andrew King, a relative, received the award on his behalf. Mrs. Audrey Glover, wife of the British High Commissioner, Mr. Edward Glover, did presentation of the awards.

And another milestone in the development of the National Library on that occasion, was the launching of the Library's Website on the second floor of the elegant three-storey building, snugly located at the eastern end of the Central Library Building.

From its beginnings in the early 1900s, the Library has spread its wings to many outlying regions in an effort to be of service to a wider cross-section of people.

Reflecting on the development of the National Library through the years, Chairman of the Library Committee, University of Guyana Vice Chancellor, Dr. James Rose noted:

"The Public Library of Guyana was established in 1909 with funding provided by Andrew Carnegie, the American Industrialist, who, in the 1880s, set up a fund for the establishment of libraries all over the world."

In 1907, plans were put in train in British Guiana to access his fund for the setting up of a Public Library in British Guiana, but on March 30, 1903, the local governor formally handed over the Carnegie Building to the Library Committee.

The Building was designed and erected departmentally by Leonard Percival Hodge, then Assistant Director of Public Works.

By September 1909, the Library, with lending and reading rooms, as well as reference facility, was opened to the public, and until 1949, its services enjoyed exclusively by the people of Georgetown and its immediate environs.

In 1950, Legislation was enacted authorising the Library Committee to extend the services outside of Georgetown.

Extensions were granted as follows:

* New Amsterdam - 1953 * Mc Kenzie - 1955

Subsequent services were extended to schools and community centres in rural Guyana.

The Georgetown Library continued to grow from strength to strength, and in the late 1950's, libraries were established at Hague on the West Coast Demerara, and at Plaisance and Golden Grove on the East Coast Demerara.

In 1960, the Public Library assumed responsibility for the Prison Library Services, and opened a Gramophone Record Library in 1959. Book-Mobile Service was introduced for isolated areas in 1970.

On September 3, 1972, the Public Free Library was converted into a National Library with a mandate to:

* Promote Library facilities throughout Guyana by establishing even more branches, collections and book-mobiles.

* To become the legal depository for all material printed in Guyana.

* To annually produce a national Bibliography and brief information on Guyanese national history.

With this new mandate the National Library was able to achieve in rapid succession, services at Ruimveldt in 1975; Aishalton (Lethem) in 1976; Uitvlugt in 1980; Albion and President's College in 1987; Kuru-kuru and Kwakwani in 1990; Port Mourant in 1991; Corriverton in 1996 and recently in Anna Regina.

Having expanded quality and range, Professor James Rose said that today, the National Library also boasts a photocopying service, toy service, and a Braille service among other things. HE noted that the Library is still a major communication device that deals with an audience of individuals in communication, as a collection.

Today its principal responsibilities are:

* To support formal education from pre-kindergarten through graduate and professional schools;

* To sustain the increasingly complex operations of the Government and economy of the country;

* To provide opportunity for continuing life-long education and retraining

* To play a meaningful role in the re-integration into society of groups now largely isolated by their lack of education and training and geographical distance among others.

Noting that any service is only as good as the persons who manage, supervise and deliver it, Dr. Rose added that nowhere has this been truer than in our own National Library.

He praised the expertise, commitment and professionalism of the officers at the helm of the service through the years, noting that they have been able to "instill in us ... excellence, [and] continue to inspire and dictate new levels of professionalism in the service."

And, together with the hard-working and dedicated staff of the Library and its branches, they have been able to enhance the quality and increase the efficiency of the Library service locally.

Master of Ceremonies at the opening was Mr. Aubrey Bishop O.R., CCH, Professor of Law at the University of Guyana, and Mrs. Carmen Jarvis - Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the National Library gave a history of the Building Extension Project.

Bishop Randolph George blessed the building. There were also prayers signalling the opening of the programme by representatives of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu denominations.

And adding lustre to the two-hour programme were the rich musical renditions by Roy Geddes' Steel Orchestra, the Parkside Steel Band; two presentations by youthful `Marigold Choir', and a poem by a student of the Charlestown Secondary School.

The Vote of thanks was delivered by Chief Librarian, Ms. Karen Sills.

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