Prevailing against the Philistines

Guyana Chronicle
January 25, 2001

THE National Library has weathered the storm and almost quietly, amid the high-profile political goings-on, recently marked a major event.

After years of frustration but dogged determination, it last week formally opened the $60M extension to the base in Georgetown with President Bharrat Jagdeo being commended for his personal interest and role in completing the project.

Ms Carmen Jarvis, Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the National Library, in giving a history of the National Library at the opening, related a very moving episode of the fortunes and misfortunes in the committee's pursuits towards acquiring the long awaited and badly needed extension.

From 1984 to 1997, the Library Committee tried with little success to make any progress with its plan for extending the library building in Church Street, she recalled.

Ms Jarvis said that as early as 1984, while celebrating the 75th anniversary of the National Library, she had lobbied for an extension to the building.

The library goes back a long way and has rendered yeoman service to those who have found comfort while exploring the wonderful world of learning within the walls of the Georgetown building and other branches and through its mobile service.

The Georgetown base was erected in 1909 with a donation of $33,600 by Andrew Carnegie. It was constructed to service the needs of the approximate 57,000 inhabitants of Georgetown.

There were about 7,700 books available for circulation among its 1,500 members.

Today the library has more than 50,165 members and the volumes in the system number 800,000.

With the growth, it had to expand and an extension was essential, according to Ms Jarvis.

The proposal was drawn up and for a period of 16 years the Library Committee tried locally and internationally to secure funding for the extension project.

There were serious obstacles but the committee never gave up hope, and continued to lobby for assistance.

In 1992, the new Minister of Education, Dr Dale Bisnauth was approached and he forwarded the request to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In 1993 the Committee heard that it was receiving the attention of the IDB.

Another three years passed, and in 1997, the Central Government gave approval for the construction of the new wing and provided the necessary finances, Ms Jarvis recounted.

It speaks volumes to the emphasis on learning that the time was invested and money found to fund this extension and we salute the committee, Mr Jagdeo, Dr Bisnauth, former President Janet Jagan and all the others and donors responsible for seeing the project through.

It would have been so easy -- amid all the other pressing priorities in rebuilding a rundown country - for a project such as the expansion of a library to be pushed down the scale.

It wasn't and those who persevered to ensure that the Philistines did not prevail should take a bow.

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