The library, usually reserved for hushed tones and bowed heads, was instead the scene of laughter and expressions of awe, as students from the Combemere School and Queen’s College enjoyed the final day of a film series in celebration of Black History Month at the national branch, Bridgetown.

The weeklong series came about through collaboration between the National Library Service and the United States Embassy in Barbados.?? Over the past five days, more than 300 students from seven schools, including the Alexandra School and Lester Vaughn Secondary school, have been treated to movie screenings – a Caribbean short film and a feature film from the U.S. – all with an African theme.

Library Director, Annette Smith, said she was pleased with the support offered by the U.S. Embassy in making the series a reality and being able to offer it to schools.

"We’ve worked together on a number of projects, but this would be the first time that we’ve ever collaborated on anything of this size…this is as much a part of the work we’re supposed to do as the lending of books, but for this kind of activity we would not have had these resources, so that we have to find partners who are willing to work with us so that we could produce a week like this," she explained.

Recognition of Black History Month has been a common practice for the National Library Service, in light of the declaration by the General Assemblies of the United Nations to encourage political, economic, social and cultural participation of persons of African origin in the Americas.

"We celebrate Black History Month and we’ve done it with a panel discussion or lecture.?? It’s usually an activity in the evening so this is the first time we’ve done anything like this…we’re not going to have the lecture this month but because of the special significance of this year, every exhibition and display and lecture that we do for the rest of the year will be framed within that concept, – supporting the year of the International Year of People of African Descent," she said.

Efforts to expand the library’s offerings have incorporated parents as well, as the Director noted that learning, teaching and reading were crucial during the formative years.

??"We do programmes to improve literacy, to make children aware of the importance of reading, and of researching – and multimedia is playing a really big part in that.?? Children are no longer interested in coming in and just getting a book.?? So we show movies, we do puppetry.?? We [not only require] support just in terms of finances, but we are always asking persons to volunteer and come in and read to the children.??

Earlier this week, we were at the Warrens polyclinic…and the whole idea is to make young mothers and mothers to be understand how important it is not to wait until the child is at school to read or to open a book, form words, how to interpret images…from the time the babe is in the womb, music and reading to them [is crucial].?? That programme is termed ???Leaping to Reading’," Ms. Smith revealed.??

Additionally, the Bridgetown branch now features a special area with a mural and beanie bags.

The Library Director stressed that volunteerism would be critical to the continued growth and contribution that the institution would make to the public.?? She explained that staff members go into schools and use communication tools, such as puppetry, to show students the fun side of reading, but added that volunteers were welcome, especially on Saturdays when there is storytelling at the library branches.

"Part of the resources that we’re looking for are human resources.?? We want persons with an hour or two who can give back something," Ms. Smith said.

For more information on the National Library Service’s reading sessions or to volunteer, contact Jennifer Yarde or Annette Smith at 435-0016.??

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