Oct. 6, 2007 — The Virgin Islands Library Association held a one-day conference Saturday at UVIs Great Hall on St. Croix to discuss innovative ways to promote literacy in the territory. The keynote speaker was Robert Wedgeworth, an icon of U.S. library services.
More than 100 librarians and educators from St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix gathered to hear the latest on the future of library services and efforts of local government to promote literacy among adults and children.
The newly constructed Great Hall on UVIs St. Croix campus welcomed the group with displays of projects constructed by students who participated in a summer program titled Promoting Literacy Through the Arts (PLTTA) summer at CMCArts in Frederiksted. Projects displayed by the youth included bead making, sculptures, dress making and tee shirt dying, to name a few.
Wedgeworth was introduced by Wallace Williams, who recently retired from the V.I. Public Library Services.
Wedgeworth helped lay the groundwork for an automated library and is the creator of National Library Week. He is the former president and CEO of ProLiteracy Worldwide, a retired university librarian and professor of library administration. Under his leadership as executive director of the American Library Association (ALA), more than 12,000 members were added to its roster. He created Friends of Libraries USA and was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the National Commission on New Uses of Copyrighted Works, providing key components to the Copyright Revision Law of 1978.
Wedgeworth jokingly asked Williams not to take too long with his introduction and, in the midst of Williams' comments, rose to stand beside him, effectively cutting his accolades short.
I have been working in libraries since I was 14, Wedgeworth said. I have always been an advocate for libraries.
He said although most information found today exists on the Internet — which has not only accelerated the pace in which we process information but the way that information is processed — most of what we know still exists only in tangible resources — books. The Internet is based on this body of knowledge, he said. Computers, cell phones and other technology are all critical in todays developing society but the ability to read is the basis of attaining knowledge, he continued.
Wedgeworth said in days past information could be read over and over in order to gain an understanding of the subject, but today if you cannot read the scroll flashing by a the bottom of the screen you are at a disadvantage.
He said adult literacy is a significant societal problem and libraries can play a critical role not only for children but for adults.
Literacy sits at the junction of every societal problem we know, said Wedgeworth, citing prison overcrowding, high recidivism, welfare and drug addiction as some of the effects of illiteracy.
He said creating a society of literate adults is as important, if not more important, than child literacy.
Adult learners are drawn from the most marginalized section of our society," he said, adding their children have a 50 percent chance of having difficulty reading.
There is an inextricable relationship between the literacy of adults and the literacy of children," Wedgeworth said. He urged libraries to focus on a culture of literacy to make their services comfortable for all people.
UVI President LaVerne Ragster also touched on the impact of technology in her remarks. She said in todays technological world literacy is critical.
Technology may give the illusion that literacy is not important,t but that is not true, Ragster said.
Former Sen. Donald Ducks Cole, who was recently appointed to head the Division of Libraries, Museum and Archives, said Gov. John deJongh Jr. was committed to constructing a new library and record center on St. Thomas and in the future, on St. Croix. He said in order to preserve government information, and provide research information to students and the community, de Jongh is requesting agencies and department heads to appoint a liaison to supply information for the V.I. Library Network (VILINET).
Coles also announced that a bookmobile will be running on both St. Thomas and St. Croix by the end of October.
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