Nine years after the Green Island Branch Library in Hanover, which fell into disrepair, was closed, the 45 year-old facility was reopened on June 23 following a $14 million renovation funded by the Sandals Foundation.
Sheer jubilation erupting from the small gathering of community members and other stakeholders attending the reopening ceremony, in keeping with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) safeguards, punctuated the atmosphere when the facility’s doors were opened, and provided the clearest indication that the Foundation’s gesture, which commenced in 2019, was welcome.
Key features of the upgraded library include: a computer room, a reading room for juniors and adults, a ‘kiddies corner’, a document room, an office area, a kitchenette for staff, and bathrooms for employees and the public.
These facilities have been designed to enable access by physically challenged persons, particularly those using wheelchairs or having reduced mobility.
With the library now reopened it will, once again, also serve residents in the adjoining communities of Cave Valley, Kendal, Orange Bay, Rock Spring, and Cousins Cove.
In her remarks during the ceremony, Director General of the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), Maureen Thompson, likened the reopening to a celebration of “Christmas in June” in Green Island.
“Indeed, this is a wonderful gift that has been bestowed on this community from the Sandals Foundation. We are immensely grateful and appreciative of this wonderful community resource… this library… which has risen from the dust like a phoenix, [and is] looking very splendid,” she said.
The Director General contended that the residents would, undoubtedly, be “more than elated” about the facility’s reopening, “so that they can, once again come in, do their research and also participate in leisure activities for both adults and juniors”.
Ms. Thompson recounted that prior to the library’s closure, it was being extensively used by community members, and expressed the hope that a similar and greater level of enthusiasm will be rekindled.
She also advised that library will be offering a wide range of additional programmes and services, designed to positively impact the community.
Ms. Thompson noted that the Sandals Foundation has been a strong supporter of the JLS, and has participated in many of the agency’s initiatives “without much fanfare”.
“So we are very pleased for this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the Foundation and the significant contribution it has made to the JLS,” the Director General added.
For his part, JLS Board Chairman, Paul Lalor, also lauded the Sandals Foundation team for their work in ensuring the facility’s reopening, noting that the project underscored the importance of public-private partnerships in Jamaica.
“The library provides so much to so many [persons]. All our libraries now have free internet access available and this will, hopefully, allow a lot of people to come in and not only use our equipment, but also to use their own equipment to get involved in learning and seeking out information,” he added.
President of the Sandals Foundation and Deputy Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart, noted that the entity’s gesture was a “no-brainer”, as it recognizes the invaluable service provided by community libraries.
“Libraries are at the heart of community development. They continue to be the gateway to information that connects people to the rest of the world; and they are the bridge that connects its residents to each other,” he stated.
Mr. Stewart pointed out that the project team worked closely with the JLS to ensure that all of the necessary features were installed in library to accommodate every user, including persons with physically challenges.
“We hope our students who will be sitting the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams will be able to use the facilities to get prepared, and for the wider student population to maximize on the resources to stay on track with their studies,” he added.
For her part, teacher at the Green Island Primary School, Lorna Salmon, who spoke on behalf of the Green Island community, welcomed the facility’s reopening.
“I want to laud the Sandals Foundation for bringing our dreams to reality; we prayed [and] longed for this day,” she stated.
Ms. Salmon noted that the closure greatly affected students in and around the community and adjoining areas, especially those who relied heavily on the internet service provided.
This, she said, resulted in several youngsters having to journey to the parish capital, Lucea, and Negril in Westmoreland to use the libraries in those locations.
In this vein, Ms. Salmon said she was “so happy that, today, we have a state-of- the-art branch library; thank you [Sandals Foundation] all from the bottom of our hearts.”