Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jamaica Library Service’s 60th International Conference

A Fabulous Week at the Jamaica Library Service’s 60th International Conference
Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Sometimes a librarian gets an opportunity to attend a conference outside her system, whether it is beyond the boundaries of her library’s community or job responsibilities. I have recently returned from the Jamaica Library Services 60th International Conference, and this is a good time for me to dive in with my first attempt at writing a blog posting for Maryland AskUsNow!

The JLS conference was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica during February 16-21, 2009. The theme of this conference was “Public and School Libraries: your partners in National Development” and centered upon Jamaica’s Vision 2030. It has been ten years since the previous conference. The level of excitement and involvement was nationwide, from the Minister of Education who spoke at the opening (Plenary) session to representatives from many of the island’s numerous libraries.

Just for the record, JLS was started in 1948 (before Jamaica’s emancipation/independence from Great Britain). It has 13 Parish libraries, and within those, numerous branch libraries (148 in all). Jamaica’s outreach service extends to hundreds of stops all over the island. The library’s partnership with its schools is well enmeshed, and collaboration with the National Library and the University of the West Indies is apparent.

I was a speaker who, with my husband’s assistance (he was my ‘live example’), presented a workshop on programming lifelong learning in public libraries. Throughout the week, other workshops covered e-resources, social networking, unified access of OPACs, and the overall theme of where the library is going. (Note: I am told that information, pictures, and recordings of my workshop and others will be available in the near future, from JLS online. - CC)

As of a year ago, the JLS initiated free Internet access at all their libraries, and their new website (linked above) was rolled out just a few days ago. Plans for unification of the cataloging system, renovations, incorporating more activities and building upon ones they have now are underway. The island’s biggest program is the National Reading Competition, which now includes an adult category. You can see more about this at:


From the overall organization of the conference to the information presented, I was newly impressed with the Jamaica Library Service.

Its Director General, Mrs. Patricia Roberts, is an amazing woman of charm, energy and vision. She clearly motivates those around her. Her background in business and management is a grounding force for the library island-wide.

One event I was able to hook up with was a field trip to St. Ann’s Parish library.

The library’s renovations include revamping the teen area, moving the reference department to a larger area upstairs, increasing the number of public computers, and the creation of the Marcus Garvey room (a huge event is planned for its opening).

The library is surrounded by a park, and the Marcus Garvey statue stands solidly in front.

I feel extremely fortunate that I could participate in and attend the Jamaica Library Services 60th International Conference. The location (the Sunset Grande Resort in Ocho Rios) was almost secondary to the tremendous conference itself. Almost.

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