Information regarding the development of Special Libraries within Trinidad and Tobago is not accurately documented and documentation fugitive. The existence of Special Libraries predates the existence of the first Public Library in Trinidad and Tobago.
1851 – 1951:
Prior to the proclamation of Ordinance 2 of 1851 for the establishment of a Public Library in Trinidad and Tobago, there is evidence that shows the existence of “Circulating Libraries”, “Subscription Libraries” and “Special Private Libraries”, all of which can fall into the definition of a Special Library. It can even be argued, that the first Public Library established in Trinidad and Tobago was indeed a “Special Library” since the library, while initially envisaged to be free was a subscriber’s library and in fact only became a free library in 1951.
Historically library services in Trinidad and Tobago were managed by three separate pieces of legislation and entities. These were The Trinidad Public Library and the Carnegie Free Library, as statutory bodies and the Central Library as a civil service department under the Ministry of Education. The administration of these library services were also governed by three distinct pieces of legislation. However none of these acts made specific reference to the administration and creation of special libraries. Hence the development of special libraries took place on a ad hoc basis depending on the specific need of the government ministry or department. By default the Central library of Trinidad and Tobago played a consultative role to the management of Special libraries.
One of the first reports that recommended the need for integration of the library services in Trinidad and Tobago, and greater co-operation between the Special Libraries and Central Library Services was done in 1959 by William B, Paton.[i] He concluded that there was need for closer co-operation between the Central Library and existing Government Libraries at the time, such as the Law Library, Legislative Council Library and the Library of the Registrar-General, of the Caribbean Commission and the Federal Library Federation of the West Indies).
Following the Paton report the need for the administration of Special Libraries by one central unit was recommended in 1968 by the Cabinet Committee on the Integration of Library Services in Trinidad and Tobago[ii] which was chaired by Wilfred D. Best. The report states,
“There is a need for a central organization and maintenance of books for use by the ministries and departments thus saving valuable space and ensuring the proper care and distribution of these books. It is suggested that there be situated at strategic points well-run subject libraries serving all ministries and government departments …”
The need for proper administration and co-ordination of special libraries did not hinder their growth. While in the early 1960’s there were approximately 5 professionally staffed special libraries in Trinidad and Tobago by the late 1960s this number was listed as 20 and by 1972 the number increased to 51. In 1972 two reports were done on library services in Trinidad and Tobago.
The first was the Draft Library Development Plan[iii] produced by the Ministry of Planning and Development which recommended that advisory responsibility to Special Libraries should fall under the Deputy Director of Library Services and that later on “a form of Bureau or Department of Special Libraries should evolve under a full time separate administration of the National Library Service.”
The second report which was completed by UNESCO consultant E.H Morton[iv], did not propose a formal department for Special Libraries instead a liaison between Ministerial Libraries and Non-Governmental Special Libraries was suggested.
Following these reports, in 1976 a Special Library Committee chaired by Patrick Dyer was appointed to present proposals on the National Library Service. The recommendations made by the Committee were similar to those made in previous reports. These were essentially the need for the co-ordination of Government Libraries to accommodate existing libraries and establish new ones. As a result of these and other recommendations, a Library Task Force was appointed by Cabinet in 1978 to consider all aspects of library development and make recommendations thereon. The main recommendation from the Library Task Force was the establishment of the National Library Archives and Information Service (NALIAS) as a statutory body falling under the Ministry of Education and Culture. Two years later the Board of the National Library Information and Archives Service (NALIAS) was established on July 17th 1980 by Cabinet Minute 2764.
In 1985 the Interim Board of NALIAS appointed the Working Group on Special Libraries/Information Network which was launched on 9th April 1985.Its terms of reference were to make recommendations for future policy and development of special libraries in Trinidad and Tobago as well as to assess existing facilities and services to develop future plans for special libraries. To date this is the most in depth report produced on Special Libraries in Trinidad and Tobago. The Working Group on Special Libraries/Information Network was chaired by Dr. Alma Jordan.
Changes in the political landscape meant a new direction for the integration of library services in Trinidad and Tobago. Despite this critical need, in February 1989 the then Cabinet decided that there was no need for the organizational structure recommended by NALIAS to be implemented. Instead Cabinet rescinded NALIAS and established the Council for National Library Information Services (CONALIS) by Cabinet Minute 264 of 1989.
In 1991 the secretariat of CONALIS was established which made recommendations for the integration of library services in Trinidad and Tobago. Emerging from those recommendations a cabinet appointed committee was set up in 1993 to decide the way forward for the integration of Public library services. This committee was chaired by Pamella Benson the first Executive Director of NALIS. In contrast the focus that was paid to Special Libraries by the NALIAS board was not seen in the CONALIS report. In this report no specific section was dedicated towards the integration of Special Libraries within the wider library services of Trinidad and Tobago.
The proposals from this report were accepted and eventually in 1998 the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) was established by Act No. 18 of 1998. Following the establishment of NALIS the responsibility for the co-ordination of Special Libraries fell under the portfolio of the Director of Information Networks Division, however the need was felt by NALIS Executive Management Team that there should be a separate division or unit dedicated specifically to the administration of Special Libraries. In 2012 this vision was realized when the Special Library Services Department was established to act as an interim Division prior to official Cabinet approval for new positions.
Anthony, Michael. First in Trinidad. St.James, Port of Spain:Circle Press, 1985.
Besson, Gerrad. The book of Trinidad. Paria Publishing Company, 1991.
Cudjoe, Selwyn. Beyond Boundaries the intellectual tradition of Trinidad and Tobago in the 19th century. Calaloux Publications, 2003.
Estimates of Civil service 1901,1959,1960 1963,19661967,1972,1973
Trinidad and Tobago. House of Representatives. Hansard, Friday August 14th, 1998-National Library Bill
Jordan, Alma. Summaries on school and special libraries in Trinidad and Tobago. St.Augustine, University of the West Indies, 1972.
Jordan Alma. The development of a library service in the West Indies through inter-library co-operation. Metuchen, Scarecrow Press Inc., 1970.
Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. Central Library of Trinidad and Tobago Act; Chapter 42:01
Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. No.5 of 1949 Central Library of Trinidad and Tobago
Laws of Trinidad and Tobago Chapter 42. No. 4 Central Library of Trinidad and Tobago
Raymond, Ursula. Planning for Library Services in Trinidad and Tobago.
Working Group on Special Libraries/Information Network. Directory of special libraries. ??
[i] Paton Report. Not located to date
[ii] Trinidad and Tobago. Cabinet Appointed Committee on integration of the public Library services of Trinidad and Tobago. Report of the Cabinet appointed committee on integration of the public library services of Trinidad and Tobago 1993.
[iii] Trinidad and Tobago. Ministry of Planning and Development. Draft library development plan for Trinidad and Tobago, 1973-1988: the challenge of change. Port of Spain, 1972
[iv] Morton, E.H. Trinidad and Tobago development of library services. UNESCO, 1972