Chairman of the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), Joy Douglas, is urging Jamaicans in the United Kingdom to support the NLJ’s efforts to build a new home.
Speaking at a recent meeting at the Jamaican High Commission in London, she said her goal was to establish a Friends of the National Library group.
Mrs. Douglas and Jamaica’s National Librarian and NLJ Chief Executive Officer, Beverley Lashley, were in London for meetings with important stakeholders, including officials of the British Library.
During the week-long working visit, the team made a special presentation to members of the Jamaican diaspora entitled ‘The Importance of Archives: Exploring NLJ’s Special Collections – Miss Lou Archives’ at which Mrs. Douglas said the NLJ is increasing its efforts to find a new home for the archives.
She noted that in addition to the Jamaican diaspora, the team also anticipated the support of UK Government agencies and individuals.
“This trip is the first step in what will be a process. We are here to interface with our British equivalent, the British Library,” she said.
Mrs. Douglas pointed out that the UK’s history was inextricably linked to Jamaica’s, and both countries’ connections predated the European nation’s granting the island Independence in 1962, extending as far back as 1655.
In her presentation, Ms. Lashley gave a brief history of the NLJ, noting that its mission is to collect, preserve, document and facilitate access to the nation’s cultural heritage, through the promotion, coordination and development of a network of technologically enhanced libraries and services.
She informed the NLJ housed a vast collection of newspapers dating back to Jamaica’s first publication in 1718; historic maps; prints and drawings; and many pieces of unpublished work from outstanding persons such as late former Jamaican Prime Minister, Sir Donald Sangster; abolitionist, Sir William Knibb; Una Marson and renown Jamaican cultural icon, Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett-Coverley, in addition to its collections of new and historic book, some which date as far back as the 1600s.
According to Ms. Lashley, the National Library is faced with various constraints and challenges, including a serious lack of storage space and the high cost of preservation and conservation materials.
Additionally, she said publications produced and printed outside of Jamaica are not governed by the Legal Deposit Act of 2002, which requires that the authors of various published material deposit copies of these publications in any medium and by any process for public distribution, lease or sale.
In this regard, Ms. Lashley urged the diaspora to support the NLJ’s effort to secure copies of such publications.
Following the presentation, Jamaica-born writer, Kwame McPherson, presented the NLJ team with copies of three of his novels.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency Seth George Ramocan, also presented the team with copies of a publication by the Rev. Dr. Doreen Morrison entitled, ‘Slavery’s Heroes’, which explores the Baptist movement in Jamaica between 1783 and 1865.
Other participants at the meeting included Chair of the Black Cultural Archives, Dawn Hill; Founder of the Jamaican Hidden Histories Project, Loran Holder; members of Jamaican community organisations; and the media.