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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Going Down To Brandon Hill, St Andrew A visit to the newest Branch Library of the JLS

February 13, 2015

 Travelling to Brandon Hill, St Andrew means first travelling down the Ginger River valley, past steep - at times sheer - slopes where farmers produce yam and banana for local markets, and high mountain coffee for export. It is also a trip to a cultural space that is now the home to Jamaica’s newest library, opened because of the ever-increasing pressure on the Stony Hill Branch Library by readers from that deep rural district. A slight divergence: Jamaica has at least three other well-known places named Brandon Hill.

Starting in 2006, the vibrant Brandon Hill Development Committee, representing the interests of the estimated 7,110 residents of the community, partnered with the Kiwanis Club of Stony Hill and the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) and secured with grants from the Culture Health Arts Science and Education Fund (CHASE) and the Universal Service Fund (USF), to build and outfit a library. It was a community celebration when the door opened on January 30, 2015 as a branch of the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Library Network.

The Jamaica Observer Bookends climbed the steep slope to the library two weeks later where the Rural and Urban Development Librarian Miss Antoinette Dunston was pleased to say that there is a waiting list for membership.

“We have applications for about 60 persons to join the library including secondary and tertiary students who are also waiting on the computers to be installed and document services to begin. For the children, we have started the story hour and preparation for the National Reading Competition. We will be introducing the Parents Reading with Babies andToddlers programme, computer training, homework club, writers club , a Grades 6 GSAT study group students, and a fun summer programme,” she said.

Records Clerk , Miss Nadisha Cockburn, went on to note the types of books that were in demand. “We need more text books on English Language, Accounts, Mathematics, Industrial Relations and Law. We also have a demand for romance novels, books on sewing and embroidery and home improvement, she said.” Cockburn believes that she is close to convincing carpenter Everton Benjamin to join the library, but in the meantime he visits regularly. Benjamin installed the partition in the building - using Blue Mahoe wood - and says that he is not a big reader, but would consider joining if there are materials related to woodwork.

The spirit of patriot William Wellington Wellwood (St William) Grant is close to hearts in Brandon Hill, St Andrew as he was born and raised there. In 2012, a painted monument to him was erected in the square, and naturally, the branch library has a clippings file on him. Staff member, Mrs Venice Scott Francis, says that the Grant family still live in the Mt Zion area of the district. Grant, was an adventurer and cook who served in the West India Regiment, and later the military arm of the Union Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in New York, rising to the rank of Sergeant. In the late 1930s, he returned to Jamaica and became a part of the labour movement, advocating for dockworkers. The personal price that he paid for facing down the authorities earned him a place of honour in history which is taught to the youth of Brandon Hill.

A regular library user is 18 year-old Lamar Mattison who says that he reads books about soldiers, spies and intrigue. The former Glengoffe High School student has asked the library to get books about the military as he intends to follow family tradition and pursue a career in security starting by applying to the Jamaica Defence Force.

Near to the Brandon Hill Branch Library are the Brandon Hill Primary and Junior High, and the Brandon Hill Infant schools, and weekly library visits are scheduled for children. Grade 4/5 was having a read aloud session during our visit where we saw the Caribbean children’s book Rooly and Flora’s Reunion in the hands of Breana Allen who is being prepared for the National Reading Competition. Her favourite books, as can be expected, are the traditional ones where girls are the heroes. 

Among the Jamaican children’s authors with books on shelves were C Everard Palmer and Jean Dacosta. The West Indian adult general reading included works of historical fiction author Margaret Cezair Thompson; poet and contemporary author, Kei Miller; short story and romance writer Brenda Barrett; literary author VS Naipaul; and contemporary Rastafarian author Barbara Blake Hanna. 

The Brandon Hill, St Andrew community is elated that they no longer have to travel, literally over hill and dale and cross rivers to get knowledge; St William Grant would probably give a salute.

Opening Hours: Mondays- Fridays 9AM 5PM and alternate Saturdays 10AM - 3PM. 

Email: brandonhillbl@gmail.com

Rural & Urban Development Librarian: 781-1187