Library spaces and infrastructure are expected to be improved this fiscal year through initiatives implemented by the Jamaica Library Service (JLS).
This was shared by Fayval Williams, minister of Education and Youth during her presentation in the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate on Wednesday (May 17) in the House of Representatives.
She said that the JLS’s initiatives will be aimed at “bridging the digital divide” through the improvement of libraries “and information technology capacity to enable development of digital, media, and information literacy competencies for children, youth and older adults.”
“In addition, the JLS seeks to expand on its Lifelong Learning initiatives through improved stakeholder engagement so as to promote the use of libraries as the centre of community engagement,” Williams added.
The Minister was sharing details on the National Reading Competition that was successfully executed in 2022 where a total of 1,835 library members (including 1,464 students) participated.
“This represented a 47 per cent increase over the previous year where the COVID-19 restrictions had impacted participation,” she said.
Organisations focused on libraries
The work of JLS can be likened, in some regards, to that of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) and the GrassROOTS Community Foundation.
The two organisations have been working together since 2018 to make books more accessible to improve literacy rates among children in the country.
This year, in particular, they plan to focus exclusively on libraries and being a driving force in ensuring that diverse books are made available for children.
GrassROOTS Community Foundation recently said, “[Libraries] maintain history and facilitate access to learning. [They] are equitable spaces, for regardless of age, income, and other identities, all are welcomed. Additionally, they are often the only space where there is open access to the internet,” in a statement on their website.
They also stress that libraries often do not receive the resources they need. This is usually evident where books are outdated and are sometimes too few for the growing youth population.
Additionally, Latoya West-Blackwood, director of special projects at the BIAJ recently said that, “We believe that children have the right to dream and providing libraries with diverse books is a practical way to use access to power the dreams of today to support the achievements of tomorrow.”
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