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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 27, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLibrary Group: Stalled Tutu Facility a 'Waste of a Precious Resource'

Library Group: Stalled Tutu Facility a 'Waste of a Precious Resource'

Judy King-Edmeade (left) honored reading advocate Gwendolyn Blyden during Sunday's annual meeting. After decades of fighting for a modern facility that is fully staffed and stocked, the message of the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries members at their annual meeting on Sunday was frustratingly clear.

“Despite opening dates that were promised to the public, the Regional Library still remains dormant in Tutu,” Friends President Judy King-Edmeade said. “What a waste of a precious resource.”

Close to 20 members gathered in Schneider Regional Medical Center’s sun room for the meeting, which apprised members of the group’s accomplishments during 2011. The Friends’ longstanding Daycare Literacy and Hospital Book Cart programs continued to reach readers, as did newer programs geared toward elementary school-aged learners and mothers of newborns, King-Edmeade said.

Despite these and other successful projects from the past year, the Friends’ conversations returned repeatedly to their frustrations with the stalled opening of the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Public Library in Tutu. Last August, the government official tasked with closing out the project, Susan Lugo, told the V.I. Source that the library should be open by December 2011. The government website devoted to the territory’s libraries, archives and museums – www.virginislandspubliclibraries.org – on Sunday still listed “early 2010” as the library’s anticipated opening date.

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On Sunday, the Friends said they felt the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which oversees the library system, does not understand the importance of having thriving, accessible and resource-packed libraries in times of economic distress. In the face of high unemployment, St. Thomas residents more than ever need a place where they can search for jobs and learn new skills, they said, adding that the increasingly under-staffed Enid M. Baa Public Library, which is closed evenings and on Saturdays, is inadequate.

Annette Olsen, who ran the island’s Bookmobile program in 2011, said by many measures the year had been a success, with an estimated 20,000 people coming onto the bus at more than 20 sites. But, Olsen said, she resigned from her post about two weeks ago, in the face of what she described as “hostility” from DPNR officials and library staff who did not support the project.

King-Edmeade said she had invited Territorial Director of Libraries, Archives and Museums Ingrid Bough, Assistant Director of Libraries, Archives and Musuems Donald “Ducks” Cole, and DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes to Sunday’s meeting.

None of these officials were there.

“That’s where were are,” King-Edmeade said.

But the Regional Library’s namesake, former Gov. Charles Turnbull, was in attendance. Turnbull said this was his first Friends meeting, and he fondly recalled spending “hours and hours” of his childhood devouring history books and Arthurian tales at the Baa library.

“I knew all the librarians,” Turnbull said, suggesting that he may have learned more under their extracurricular tutelage than he did at school.

Turnbull thanked public libraries for making it possible for him to earn his doctorate, teach at the University of the Virgin Islands and serve as the territory’s education commissioner.

“I became what I became in large part because of libraries,” the former governor said.

Turnbull said he would try to help the Friends realize their dream of seeing the regional library open by making some “behind-the-scenes” phone calls to senators and government officials.

Friends Treasurer Cynthia Richards said the volunteer-run group, which has about $9,300 in its coffers, needs help spreading the word of what it is trying to accomplish.

“We may be few in numbers, but if everyone tells a few more people, together we can make something happen,” Richards said.

Until the new library opens, St. Thomas bibliophiles should try to get their fix from Dockside Bookshop, which is locally owned and operated, instead of patronizing online retailers, Friends leaders said.

The group reelected Richards, Bonnie Braga, Patricia Harkins-Pierre and Rachele Shells to serve two-year terms on the board of directors. The group also elected three new board members – Olsen, Turnbull and Ellen MacLean, who was one of the first Friends’ founders – to serve two-year terms, and elected Angela Belfon to the role of alternate board member.

In addition to King-Edmeade, the Friends’ board of directors includes Stephen Cheslik, Violeta Donovan, Cherrel Turner and Eugenia Sello Cruse.

The board accepted the resignation of longtime library advocate Jorge Estemac, who has moved off-island, and thanked him for his extensive service. They also thanked outgoing board member Anita Davis, who has volunteered to continue serving as the organization’s website guru.

To learn more about the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries, which will soon kick off its new adult book club with Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” visit www.fostpl.org.

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Judy King-Edmeade (left) honored reading advocate Gwendolyn Blyden during Sunday's annual meeting. After decades of fighting for a modern facility that is fully staffed and stocked, the message of the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries members at their annual meeting on Sunday was frustratingly clear.

“Despite opening dates that were promised to the public, the Regional Library still remains dormant in Tutu,” Friends President Judy King-Edmeade said. “What a waste of a precious resource.”

Close to 20 members gathered in Schneider Regional Medical Center's sun room for the meeting, which apprised members of the group's accomplishments during 2011. The Friends' longstanding Daycare Literacy and Hospital Book Cart programs continued to reach readers, as did newer programs geared toward elementary school-aged learners and mothers of newborns, King-Edmeade said.

Despite these and other successful projects from the past year, the Friends' conversations returned repeatedly to their frustrations with the stalled opening of the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Public Library in Tutu. Last August, the government official tasked with closing out the project, Susan Lugo, told the V.I. Source that the library should be open by December 2011. The government website devoted to the territory's libraries, archives and museums – www.virginislandspubliclibraries.org – on Sunday still listed “early 2010” as the library's anticipated opening date.

On Sunday, the Friends said they felt the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which oversees the library system, does not understand the importance of having thriving, accessible and resource-packed libraries in times of economic distress. In the face of high unemployment, St. Thomas residents more than ever need a place where they can search for jobs and learn new skills, they said, adding that the increasingly under-staffed Enid M. Baa Public Library, which is closed evenings and on Saturdays, is inadequate.

Annette Olsen, who ran the island's Bookmobile program in 2011, said by many measures the year had been a success, with an estimated 20,000 people coming onto the bus at more than 20 sites. But, Olsen said, she resigned from her post about two weeks ago, in the face of what she described as “hostility” from DPNR officials and library staff who did not support the project.

King-Edmeade said she had invited Territorial Director of Libraries, Archives and Museums Ingrid Bough, Assistant Director of Libraries, Archives and Musuems Donald “Ducks” Cole, and DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes to Sunday's meeting.

None of these officials were there.

“That's where were are,” King-Edmeade said.

But the Regional Library's namesake, former Gov. Charles Turnbull, was in attendance. Turnbull said this was his first Friends meeting, and he fondly recalled spending “hours and hours” of his childhood devouring history books and Arthurian tales at the Baa library.

“I knew all the librarians,” Turnbull said, suggesting that he may have learned more under their extracurricular tutelage than he did at school.

Turnbull thanked public libraries for making it possible for him to earn his doctorate, teach at the University of the Virgin Islands and serve as the territory's education commissioner.

“I became what I became in large part because of libraries,” the former governor said.

Turnbull said he would try to help the Friends realize their dream of seeing the regional library open by making some “behind-the-scenes” phone calls to senators and government officials.

Friends Treasurer Cynthia Richards said the volunteer-run group, which has about $9,300 in its coffers, needs help spreading the word of what it is trying to accomplish.

“We may be few in numbers, but if everyone tells a few more people, together we can make something happen,” Richards said.

Until the new library opens, St. Thomas bibliophiles should try to get their fix from Dockside Bookshop, which is locally owned and operated, instead of patronizing online retailers, Friends leaders said.

The group reelected Richards, Bonnie Braga, Patricia Harkins-Pierre and Rachele Shells to serve two-year terms on the board of directors. The group also elected three new board members – Olsen, Turnbull and Ellen MacLean, who was one of the first Friends' founders – to serve two-year terms, and elected Angela Belfon to the role of alternate board member.

In addition to King-Edmeade, the Friends' board of directors includes Stephen Cheslik, Violeta Donovan, Cherrel Turner and Eugenia Sello Cruse.

The board accepted the resignation of longtime library advocate Jorge Estemac, who has moved off-island, and thanked him for his extensive service. They also thanked outgoing board member Anita Davis, who has volunteered to continue serving as the organization's website guru.

To learn more about the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries, which will soon kick off its new adult book club with Zora Neale Hurston's “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” visit www.fostpl.org.