Jubilee Library marks ninetieth anniversary

POSTED: 11/19/13 4:09 PM

Celebration on Friday and Saturday

St. Maarten – The Philipsburg Jubilee Library celebrates its ninetieth anniversary this upcoming weekend with  a cultural manifestation Friday evening, a cultural parade on Saturday afternoon and  an appreciation awards ceremony in the evening.

Library director Monique Alberts said yesterday that the appreciation awards ceremony is designed to express gratitude to the business community and others for their support and to put dedicated readers and youth in the spotlight.

On Friday evening, starting at 7 p.m., several primary schools will showcase the various cultures on the island. Sint Maarten, French Saint Martin, Suriname and the Dominican Republic are among the colors that will fly that evening. “We want to create avenues of understanding between different cultures through reading, dance and poetry,” says Morenika Arrindell, the library’s activities coordinator and public relations officer. The theme of the celebration is Many Cultures, One Island, One People.

Saturday is client appreciation day. During opening hours members who have kept their books too long are able to return them without paying a penalty. At 2 p.m. a cultural parade starts at the Government Administration Building, whereby children from primary schools again will showcase the different cultures that make up the St. Maarten population. The parade will go from the Government Administration Building onto Back Street, turn right at the Cadastre office towards the Pondfill, pass the Salt Pickers and Freedom Fighters roundabouts and the Vineyard Building before turning into town again onto the Voges Street back to the library. There will be music, dance singing, food and literature.

Director Alberts said that not much is known about the early years of the library. On November 23, 1923 –when Queen Wilhelmina celebrated the 25th year of her reign – the library opened its doors for the very first time. This was an initiative of A.C. Wathey, W.R. Vlaun and T.A. Beaujon. The library’s name stems from the queen’s jubilee in 1923 – hence the name Philipsburg Jubilee library.

“The library was run by volunteers and in the beginning all the books were in the Dutch language,” Alberts says. The colonial power the Netherlands  at the time wanted to promote its language among St. Maarten’s population. “That has changed a lot now. We have 60,000 books in Dutch, English and Spanish.”

In the sixties of last century a children’s library was established at the Cultural Center on Back Street, but in 1968 the two libraries merged under the directorship of its first professional librarian, Blanca Hodge who would hold the post until 2007.

In 1983 the library moved to its current building on Voges Street next to the Sundial School. “It was one of the most modern buildings on the island in the eighties,” Alberts says. “It is about twenty times the size of the library at the Cultural Center, but now this building is outdated.”

In 2008 the library pleaded with the Executive Council and the Island Council for the establishment of a new building. Alberts says that there is a Memorandum of Understanding with the Heritage Foundation that would like to be part of this project. Resident archeologist Jay Haviser of the St. Maarten Archeological Center Simarc also has expressed his interest to put archeological treasures on display in this new building. So far the government has not taken any action to make the project a reality.

“Our library is also the National Library,” Alberts says. “We are collecting documents to preserve them for future generations. We actually need a special room for it but right now there is no space. These documents are currently kept in the director’s office and that is not really safe.”

The library also keeps digital copies of local newspapers. The oldest clipping currently in the collection dates back to 1850, Alberts said.

The need for a new building had not only to do with the growing population, but also with the changing function of the library. “It has become more of a meeting place these days,’ Alberts says. “Taking out books is going down.”

But the library does remain a place that has plenty of information to offer. The E-book service is gaining popularity. “Our members are able to download E-books for free. They stay for a couple of weeks on their E-reader,” Alberts explains.

 

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