Libraries must be seen as all-inclusive establishments and neighbourhood ???cultural catchalls??? instead of boring places.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made this assertion today, during his feature address at the Read-a-thon of the book, In the Castle of My Skin, held to mark the 166th anniversary of the National Library Service.

Mr. Lashley told the audience, which included senators, educators, students and historians, that libraries have had a direct and significant impact on societies all over the world.

???Libraries, as repositories for published information, are also involved in the preservation of other aspects of our heritage, our history, culture, experiences and, documentation of our aspirations,??? he outlined, adding that the National Library Service???s mandate was ???to collect, preserve, and make accessible, the oral and recorded knowledge of this country???s tangible and intangible heritage.???

The Culture Minister explained that while libraries held historical relics, documented research, readings of communities, governments and entire societies, the library experience was shifting, since books were no longer the main gateway to information.

???The new emerging technologies that are being eagerly embraced and utilised, particularly by the youth, have driven that shift. The instant, interactive, digitised format with its realistic and readily manipulated visuals is understandably more attractive for them than books,??? he said.

???The National Library Service stands ready to meet these challenges, in order to remain relevant to its community. The Library is committed to offer new services in the form of new technologies, to retain the interest of its patrons in general and in particular, its younger patrons, by incorporating these new technologies into the library experience,??? he assured the audience.

Noting that modern libraries continued to create and provide an outlet for technological advancements, he acknowledged that libraries also introduced and nurtured cultural artefacts, supported the rise of various religions and helped to maintain a sense of historical structure.

Stressing that the National Library Service had served Barbados well as a free institution, he reiterated that all the branches of the Library Service were vast storehouses of information which have enlightened Barbadians from all walks of life at some point.

???They [the library branches] have managed to help communities survive and thrive via numerous artistic outlets,??? he said.

???The available open access to this information, whether in the form of journals, magazines, books, microfilm or any other form of documentation, allows reading for pleasure, facilitates research and generally enhances our educational experience at both the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. As such, the National Library Service plays a major role in the development of Barbados??? human capital,??? he told the audience.

Minister Lashley urged the audience to embrace and encourage the culture of reading amongst themselves and others.

Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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