Tareef Pierre, Form Two student of Woodbrook Secondary and his peers from a number of secondary schools in Port of Spain and environs were around a table at the Port of Spain Young Adult Library, studying and discussing a range of topics. Given that they are in the library almost every day, they were approached and asked about their views on libraries. They all give libraries a big thumbs up. Pierre said, and his colleagues concurred, “This is the ideal space where we can find a wide variety of different information materials, people and have a good chance of finding association.” The group said “Yes for libraries”.
“Yes!” incidentally is the theme of the current promotional campaign launched by the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) via its social media platforms. The campaign is aimed at providing the public with information about NALIS’ services. The Yes! Campaign seeks to break the stereotypical view of libraries ‘that they are quiet places with dusty books on shelves and stern-faced librarians.’ Providing no spoilers, NALIS’ Manager Corporate Communications, Debbie Goodman invites all to follow the Authority on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on @NALIStt as well as visit its website at www.nalis.gov.tt to view the campaign’s roll out.
With regards to the way some persons view libraries, Goodman said, “It is true that libraries are typically quiet, but they are much more than books and certainly librarians are pleasant, knowledgeable and welcoming.” She said that NALIS has kept up with international trends, embracing technology, offering Wi-Fi, and free online resources, such as journals, which assist users with research papers, e-books and assistive technology for the visually impaired. Additionally, NALIS offers a range of programmes and activities geared toward facilitating social, cultural, educational, economic and political development, as mandated by the NALIS Act No. 18 of 1998.”
With so much to offer, NALIS points to its ability to provide opportunities for connection, recreation, reading, conducting research and even learning a new skill. Amidst facing challenges, the Authority continues to strive toward enriching the lives of all in Trinidad and Tobago.
According to Goodman, “it is quite gratifying to see the lives of persons, particularly young adults touched by the services offered by NALIS - especially given the current conversations about deviant youth.” “It is encouraging,” she continued, “to see that many young people spend considerable time at our libraries, not only studying but participating in poetry slam competitions, creative writing workshops and playing board games such as Monopoly, Chess, Checkers and Scrabble, among others.”
Highlighting the many activities offered at libraries for the young and old, Goodman further noted “Public Libraries are also spaces where children attend vacation camps, take in some of their favourite movies, learn craft, and enjoy storytelling sessions geared towards building language and vocabulary skills. There are also literacy tutoring programmes to assist those with reading challenges. “Adults,” she continued “regardless of their area of endeavour, find delight in socialising at book club meetings and other outreach activities. Everyone is shown respect here, given a voice and encouraged to hone their skills.”
Though some say that public libraries are the most visible Division of NALIS, the Authority’s Educational Library Services Division supports the education system through its services at secondary and primary schools. According to the Director, Educational Library Services Division, Jasmin Simmons, “Staff at School Library Media Centres (SLMCs) have effectively worked on getting students back into their school library; whether it is by teaching the game of football, information literacy classes, the art of mehindi or simply providing career guidance.”
Contributing to shaping lives, NALIS manages libraries in correctional institutions, such as the Maximum Security Prison, the Youth Training Centre (YTC), Women’s Prison and St Judes’ School for Girls; government ministries, where patrons are provided with reliable information for sound decision making. Through its co-location initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, NALIS is providing services at community centres. NALIS is also at the forefront, promoting local publishing, preserving our national heritage and showcasing culture, all spearheaded by its Heritage Library Division. With all that is happening I am sure some persons now view libraries differently and will say yes for libraries.