Greater Portmore Branch Library (GPBL)
This article appeared in the Bookends magazine of the Jamaica Observer on Sunday, October 5, 2014
“Everybody in Portmore is studying something,” smiles the warm and effervescent librarian Mrs Olive Sawyers Watt when the Jamaica Observer visited the Greater Portmore Branch Library (GPBL), the largest branch in the national network of the Jamaica Library Service.
The library started as a dream in 1978, and its doors finally opened in the town centre in 2000. The project was a partnership with the community, the government and Churches Co-op Credit Union. Built by Wihcon, its prefabricated architecture fits in with the community.
On Wednesday at 2PM, Mrs Sawyers Watt and her staff were preparing for the weekly “Wi Likkle But We Tallawah” reading programme for pregnant mothers , parents and small children, which is held in the KFC Chicky Room for young users . After a sing along and prayers, Rural Development Librarian, Nadia Parks gave the seven mothers in attendance an overview on the value of reading to small children, then the librarians read, giving pointers to the parents on how to make reading meaningful and enjoyable. Under gentle guidance, the seven mothers and eight children had a stimulating hour, which finished up with conversation over light refreshments.
The mother of Keria Phillips, age 2, said that she was not an avid reader until the doctors told her about complications with her pregnancy. She immediately visited the GPBL library to research her condition, and became a regular visitor. Keria started the reading programme when she was one year and three months, and attends weekly. Her mother credits the GPBL with helping her to teach her daughter who can count up to 15 and who knows several letters of the alphabet. Every parish library has a similar programme, and it is now being introduced in some branch libraries.
Near to the front desk is a space for small exhibitions. Five topics were featured on the day Bookends visited. The Chickunguna Virus; the life and leadership of international human rights advocate, Nelson Mandela; and the commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the birth of Jamaican cultural luminary, Louise Bennett; Senior Citizens Month and also Literacy Month.
“People really stop and read what they see on the display boards, and sometimes teachers ask us for copies of the material so that they can use it to supplement their own classroom teaching materials,” Mrs Sawyers Watt says.
Near the reference section is the computer room which is fully occupied and teens waiting for their turn. Although the library has a Wi-Fi service, Mrs Sawyers Scott says that the air conditioning is a major attraction for users. "Portmore is hot," she says, so even if our members have Internet at home, they will come here to be comfortable and to read."
Girls from the Greater Portmore High School were among the users waiting patiently to get help with a research assignment. The Jamaica Library Service subscribes to EBSCO Information Services which delivers credible content that may not be available, or easily findable, on free search engines, like Google.
Mrs Sawyers Watt says, “The library is used a lot for homework assignments and for research. We have a staff member who is designated to help with homework assignments from 2PM to closing time during the school term. Our computer room is linked to EBSCO, so the information is especially useful for tertiary students.”
The annual calendar of the GPBL has events for children and also seniors. The last Thursday in February is the Culturama concert that features performances by children from the surrounding schools. The library also hosts a summer programme that includes sports, art and craft and speakers.
Seniors are special to the library, and in a place of honour in the librarian's office is a photo of a graduation ceremony of a short computer course for seniors. The library runs at least one course every year for about 15 neighbourhood seniors.
There is more than ample space on the library shelves for many general reading books for junior readers, young adults and adults. We asked the librarian what were the kinds of books are in demand by the readers.
“The ladies like to read modern paperback romance and mystery novels. Our small children gravitate to Jamaican books more. They especially like the Little Lion series.”
Mrs Sawyers Watts’ wish list is simple more books and greater comfort: “We want more books, especially novels of all kinds. The Jamaica Library Service has a donation guideline because we only lend books with no missing pages and that are clean and in good condition. With regards to our facilities, we would love to partner with a solar energy company so that we can get another room in the library that is air conditioned, and make the space more inviting and comfortable for our users,” she says.
The GPBL recently acquired the 300-page book: The Story of Portmore, An Illustrated History by Kennedy Reid; Great House Publishers 2010. The librarians ask "Where can be better to read about a place, than in its library?
The GPBL is very easy to reach. The JUTC terminates several routes at the town centre, and there is also curbside parking for cars.
Opening Hours: Monday – Fridays 10AM – 7PM; Saturdays 10AM – 5PM.
Call the GPBL at 740-1259/60 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org