The National Library should take a bow. It has been quietly providing a most important service to students and other booklovers over the years.
Its main location is in Georgetown. That beautiful building has undergone some expansion over the years. An extra wing was built and attached to the original structure. This addition totally distracted from the beauty of the old building.
It would have been much better had the National Library considered an annex rather than seeking to expand the original building. Many libraries in the world have been forced to have annexes so as to be able to provide additional services.
The National Library has tried to keep abreast of the times and has introduced a number of services, including the Internet, for its membership and members of the public. However, there is clearly an inadequate number of computer terminals and obviously, a need for more space. I would certainly suggest that the National Library consider creating an annex at another location so as to allow it to de-link from one building, the provision of research services from its lending services.
Clearly there is a need to provide greater research services to students, many of whom do not have access to the Internet and research materials which are necessary for them to do well in school.
With more and more students now wishing to access the Internet, there is a huge deficit between the number of computers available for this at the National Library and the demand for such services.
In this its one-hundredth year, the National Library should seriously consider this problem and with the support of the government, seek to not only develop a plan to increase its modernisation, but also to expand on its outreach to other areas.
There is a mobile service which provides lending services outside of Georgetown. And this is good, since it allows children in many poor communities to have some reading material.
However, those students are at a distinct disadvantage because they have very limited research facilities available.
A way must be found to increase the research services to outlying areas, since these are the areas that are the most disadvantaged in terms of having access to materials, especially the Internet.
Instead of the National Library seeking to provide the service itself, it should try to network with non-governmental organisations in building small units in outlying areas that would facilitate access by students in those areas to the Internet.
It does not mean that the students should be free to roam the World Wide Web. If this is allowed, they may waste a great deal of time searching for the right material.
Instead, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the entity that is managing these units, it should create specific research sites which would have material recommended by teachers in the school system since these teachers would know what type of information these children should have.
So what is being proposed is a system in which research material is made available through the use of computers to students.
Thus for CXC students, there can be a website created for each subject area in which students can be offered assistance in finding materials for the various topics which are required to be covered in their syllabus.
These sites should also have links to other sites which would allow for other sources of information to be tapped. I think this sort of initiative will greatly assist students in outlying areas by allowing them to not just have access to information, but more especially, to have access to the right information.
The World Wide Web has a great deal of information. And many students in research of an issue are swamped with the sheer number of sources of information.
They may also have problems in determining how deep their research should be. This is why the suggestion is being made for the creation of subject sites for each grade in school since this would narrow down for students the materials which they should refer to.
One of the criticisms of the Internet is that it has reduced the reading abilities of our children. And this is true. Fewer students are reading books these days and this has had a terrible effect on the lending sections of the library. The National Library in this anniversary year is attempting to highlight the importance of reading, and this is an initiative which must be supported.
Every citizen of Guyana has access to the facilities of the National Library and it must also be added that every citizen should see it as his or her responsibility to support the work of the library, which today, has fewer members and fewer books than at any time in the past forty years.
This is not a good sign for Guyana as it indicates that Guyanese are not reading as much as they did before.
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