Dr Joyce Robinson — 'a Rock of Gibraltar in times of emotional stress'

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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OPPOSITION Leader Andrew Holness expressed deep sadness, the Library and Information Association of Jamaica (LIAJA) sang her praises, and lifelong friend Dr Hazel Bennett mourned her as a "Rock of Gibraltar in times of emotional stress", as tributes pour in for
Dr Joyce Robinson, librarian extraordinaire who died on Sunday.

Holness described Dr Robinson as a stalwart of the public service, whose career was defined by strength, determination and a vision for improving the quality of life of each and every Jamaican she served, and he praised her for her contribution to education through the leadership she provided to the National Library Service for over two decades.

"She took the Service from a fledgling state into a strong, vibrant islandwide entity, sharing the gift of reading with persons from all walks of life," he said. "Dr Robinson took that same visionary approach to using education and literacy as a
tool of social transformation to the HEART Trust/NTA in the 1980s. Her passion for unlocking the potential of Jamaicans through literacy was also manifest in her work with JAMAL, now the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL).

Holness encouraged teachers across the country to emulate the example of Dr Robinson's life and the manner in which her passion for education was made manifest in every aspect of her work.

The Opposition leader also expressed condolences to her family and friends, particularly her daughter, Dr Ann Bridgwater and her son, Anthony Robinson.

Above all else a librarian

The Library and Information Association of Jamaica hailed Dr Robinson as a woman of integrity
who "can truly be described as a nation-builder as a result of the selfless contribution which she made to so many aspects of our national life".

"She was, however, first and foremost, a librarian and she was always proud of this as her professional calling," said LIAJA President Matthew Blake.

"As a library administrator, she made an outstanding contribution to the development of library institutions and became the dominant figure in librarianship in Jamaica. As such, she has left an indelible mark on the profession at national and international levels," added Blake who is also the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) librarian.

"With a strong and decisive personality, she was a leading force in the library community even after she was no longer actively involved in library work. The Library and Information Association of Jamaica pays tribute to this outstanding librarian and acknowledges with gratitude her contribution to the development of libraries and to the library profession," Blake said in
his tribute.

Joyce Robinson was a founding member of the Jamaica Library Association, the forerunner of LIAJA, and served the Association
in several capacities including that of president on two occasions — 1964 and 1973. In 1992 she was elected honorary member of the Association in recognition of her contribution to the growth and development of the profession and to the courageous leadership she gave in promoting the value of library services to national development.

"Joyce Robinson will be remembered specifically for her role in the development of the Jamaica Library Service from 1950-1973, the last 16 years as director and the first Jamaican to hold this position. Equally important was her role in advocating for the establishment of a library school on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, as well as her role as a founding member of the National Council on Libraries, Archives and Documentation Services (NACOLADS). For this she served as the chairman from 1980-1990 and was instrumental in the establishment of the National Library of Jamaica, which she served as the first board chairman from 1979 to 1996.

"So significant has her contribution been to library development and to other aspects of national life, that in 1994, the Library Association published a book of essays in her honour entitled Libraries, Literacy and Learning. As Gloria Clarke, the
then president, said: 'The many achievements of Joyce Robinson have brought lustre to the library profession and the Jamaica Library Association salutes her on her accomplishments.' This sentiment is echoed by the Library and Information Association today as we join others in giving thanks for her life of dedicated service to our country," Blake said.

The things she did for a travel-worn friend...

"If I were asked to use one word to describe this most progressive and productive daughter of Jamaica, Joyce Lilieth Robinson, it would be 'excellence'," said Dr Hazel Bennett, close friend and former deputy director of the Jamaica Library Service.

"During her active career as librarian and educator, she placed Jamaica on the international map on two occasions. Because of her vision and dynamism, the Jamaica Library Service made such rapid strides and impacted on the lives of so many Jamaicans in such a short time — in the 1950s and 1960s — it was selected the model for free public libraries in developing countries of the
British Commonwealth; and JAMAL, the adult education agency she later headed, was also recognised internationally as a model for adult education," said Bennett.

"Her dynamic leadership style and management skills — careful planning, selfless devotion to duty, meticulous eye for detail, accuracy, accountability and focus on excellence, motivated her co-workers to follow her dream for a better Jamaica. She was generous of spirit, sharing in their happiness and success, and was the Rock of Gibraltar in times of emotional stress and need. This spirit of caring extended to all members of her team, from the highest to the lowliest in all the organisations where she served.

"As her friend and colleague for more than 60 years, I was inspired by her to achieve, and she would call or appear at the right moment when a word of cheer or a comforting hug was needed or a celebration was in place. One of her most touching acts, although she was severely physically challenged in her later years, was to arrive at my apartment the day before my return from overseas with her driver in tow, to open up the place, plug in the refrigerator, and stock it with basic necessities a travel-worn friend might need. "These incredible acts of kindness and caring were the hallmark of Joyce Robinson, and to this all those who were privileged to work with her can attest," said Bennett, retired senior lecturer at the UWI and widow of the late Wycliffe Bennett of JBC and CPTC fame.

— Desmond Allen

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