St. Thomas Library Friends Host DPNR Commissioner at Virtual Annual Meeting

Enid M. Baa Public Library sign (file photo, 2009)
Enid M. Baa Public Library sign (file photo, 2009)
Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol reveals renovation and modernization plans for the territorial library system

A diverse and engaged group attended the 2021 annual meeting of the Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries on Wednesday via Zoom. The meeting featured updates from guest speaker Jean-Pierre L. Oriol, Commissioner, Department of Planning and Natural Resources/Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums (DPNR/DLAM).

Also present were Acting Territorial Director of Libraries Symra T. Chinnery-Wilkinson and retired Assistant Director and territorial archivist Susan Lugo, who was cited by Oriol for her guiding role in prioritizing historical materials to be digitized and archived.

Enid M. Baa courtyard (file photo, 2009)
According to Commissioner Oriol, the Enid M. Baa courtyard will be transformed to a welcome space for the community (file photo, 2009)
Challenges remain for USVI public libraries

Ongoing challenges to USVI public libraries are the lack of convenient hours and staffing. According to Oriol, even if staffing levels were somehow be increased, it is not possible to address the need for modernizing and improving service delivery without qualified Information Technology personnel.

A bright spot for the territory is the ability to approach all needed repairs with an allowance to budget some funds towards resiliency features to allow for the modernization of the libraries to support the preservation of precious historic resources and existing archives. Many hours were spent developing project worksheets to be presented to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in partnership with Witt-O’Brien’s to finalize project scopes.

Key among the details:

  • Turnbull Regional Library repairs budgeted; St. Croix district budgets recently submitted
  • Concrete plans to once again utilize the Enid M. Baa Public Library on St. Thomas, including public spaces, computer center, and archives
  • Digitization of collections and modernization of USVI Public Libraries
Funding issues; possible solutions

Discussions from the floor included the chronic underfunding of the territory’s public libraries in terms of personnel, security, facilities maintenance and technology. It was suggested that perhaps being part of the Division of Planning and Natural Resources may give the false impression that there is adequate funding to policy makers and the public. To get a more accurate picture of what it takes to run the libraries, Oriol feels it may be necessary to consider libraries separately, or even remove them from within DPNR altogether, since a significant portion of the DPNR budget is mandated to regulatory functions.

The meeting also included heartfelt thanks to former FOSTPL President Drew Russo, who recently relocated stateside, for his many contributions and leadership during his tenure.

NOTE: The next open meeting of the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries will be in March; date and time to be announced. The meeting will be hosted via Zoom; all are invited to follow @FOSTPL.usvi on Facebook or sign up to be on the mailing list to receive Zoom link registration details, at www.FOSTPL.org.

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