'New Chapter'

Western News

'New Chapter'

Green Island library reopens after $14-m investment by Sandals Foundation

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer West writer

Thursday, June 25, 2020

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GREEN ISLAND, Hanover -THE Green Island Branch Library here, which was closed for the past nine years due to the dilapidated state of the 44-year-old building, has been reopened, thanks to a $14-million investment by Sandals Foundation.

At the time of its closure the facility was one of the biggest catchment areas in the Hanover Parish Library network, serving numerous communities including Cave Valley, Kendal, Orange Bay, Green Island Rock Spring, and Cousins Cove.

More than a year ago, the Jamaica Observer West highlighted the plight of the residents — mainly students — who had to find alternate means of researching information and undertaking other library-related activities.

The closure of the library, for instance, resulted in students travelling up to 14 miles to use either the Hanover Parish Library in Lucea or the Negril Branch Library in Westmoreland.

Sandals Foundation was moved by the Observer West story.

“It was a no-brainer to get involved when the executive director [of the foundation], Heidi Clarke, brought the need and proposed the project to me and the board of directors.

Today, we bring to a close nine years of a library's absence which left a huge void in the community. Today we also celebrate the start of a new chapter in the history of Green Island, with this more than $14-million investment of a newly restored building and improved resources that will serve the needs of the diverse residents of Cave Valley, Kendal, Orange Bay, Rock Spring and Cousins Cove,” said Adam Stewart, the president of the foundation, at Tuesday's function to mark the reopening of the facility.

“Thank you to the wonderful team at the Jamaica Library Service that continues to play a significant role in improving literacy, education, and economic opportunities for people and communities across the island. Thank you to the residents of Green Island who were not afraid to let their voices be heard and express their needs.”

And it was a proud moment for residents who were in attendance at the ceremony held on the library compound.

“When the library closed its doors nine years ago I really was upset, angry…” stated Lorna Salmon, a teacher at Green Island Primary School.

“When I saw the gentlemen over here working the first day, I had to take the picture...and every morning I am walking on my way to school I took a few pictures. So, I was here every morning admiring the progress of the work, so I am really, really appreciative.”

Salmon stressed that the closure of the library made it challenging for students.

“We had a number of challenges. For one, the young children who are in the community were unable to complete their assignments because during their lunch break or on Saturdays they would come over and they would utilise the resources here [Green Island library]. And so, when the library closed, it was really challenging. Some of them would go to a parish library but those who didn't have the resources, they would just have to make do,” she shared.

Jada Cunningham, a Green Island resident who is also a student of Rusea's High School, was overjoyed.

“I feel elated that it is opening because I used to call this place [Green Island library] my happy place. I like peace and quiet when I am reading, and I read a lot. Without the library it was kind of rough, like a rocky road. So, when I heard it was reopening I was very happy. I even mentioned to all my friends that my happy place is reopening,” Cunningham told the Observer West.

Renovation work on the building, which involved construction of a new roof, reinforcing of walls, laying of new tiles, renovation of bathrooms, creation of a disability access ramp, electrical and plumbing works, commenced last November and was completed in January.

Additionally, signage, computer desks, shelves, new windows, doors, grille, counters and cupboards were all installed.

And with the creation of a computer lab, the library will be offering free access to computers and Internet, free Wi-Fi access, and computer training.

Maureen Thompson, director general of the Jamaica Library Service, who commended the foundation and other stakeholders, pointed out that before the closure in 2011 the library operated for 35 years and maintained a record of being well utilised by the community. “So, it is therefore no surprise that when it closed in 2011 there was huge public outcry – which continued for varying periods over the years. The branch was the subject of much discussion in the press, both by locals and the Diaspora, as persons lobbied for the restoration of the facility in Green Island. The Sandals Foundation heard and was moved by the stories of the invaluable service offered by this library and responded favourably to calls for financial assistance,” said Thompson.


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