Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, has challenged the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) to be a facilitator of information to various sectors of society, in order to enhance knowledge, technology and development.
“The library, through technology, must be an adjunct and a help to what goes on in the school system. The library has to become the centre where young people or people of any age can come and get information as to how they can improve their business skills or confirm themselves in the task of earning an honest income,” the Minister said.
Rev. Thwaites was speaking at the official launch of the JLS’ ICT-driven project dubbed: ‘Using Technology to Empower Individuals and Communities for Development’, on November 6 at the Kingston & St. Andrew Parish Library.
The project, which is made possible by a US$2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative and co-funding from the Government in the amount of US$1.1 million, will provide Jamaicans with increased access to Information and Communication Technology, through the provision of additional ICT resources across 127 public libraries in Jamaica.
This project will also enhance programmes and services as well as training in ICT skills and other related areas for JLS staff and library users.
The Minister pointed out that through this project, the JLS should conceptualize activities and programmes and engage in partnerships to get more persons to utilize the services at the libraries.
“We must be observant, very sharp and flexible to see how the library can facilitate after-school and weekend activities to reduce or eliminate idleness and regression of our young people during those periods,” Rev. Thwaites said.
He challenged the JLS to systemize homework centres in all the libraries and consider initiatives to facilitate adult learning.
“We must call upon the library to enter into a sturdy and enduring partnership with the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning in the roll-out of the alternate high school diploma for all our adults. We have nowhere else to turn, we will not be able to build new academies or new buildings, but we have our libraries that can assist in making these adults excel,” the Minister argued.
Similarly, the Minister recommended that the libraries should “be stocked with all of the texts that are used in schools as well as a supply of the supplemental material, so that students who cannot afford to purchase can gain access at the library.”
The Minister pledged the commitment and support of the ministry in assisting the JLS to carry out its mandate and implement the project.
Other project partners include : Microsoft, RJR Communication Group, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Universal Service Fund, Management Institute for National Development (MIND), the Gleaner Company and Jamaica Public Service Limited (JPS).
By Kadian Brown