25 February, 2009


We lack both the vision and the administrative capacity to mine our resources. There is a thread on Anguilla Forum. It consists, as I write this, of three posts enquiring about the possibility of donating children’s books to Anguilla. No one has responded with advice.

There used to be a number of book projects, all uncoordinated with each other.

1. Teacher Art was getting books at the West End School, and sharing them with other schools. He, alas, is gone, and so is the project.

2. A lady in Canada with publisher connections was getting new books for Anguilla. She treated people who were sending down used books as if they were garbage collectors, and wanted nothing to do with their rubbish. I do not know what happened to her project.

3. We used to have an energetic and enthusiastic young national librarian. He is now, to his sorrow, our Labour Commissioner. His replacement is still too new for us to know what sort of vision he has. If he has one, he will not yet have had enough time for his plans to have been put into effect.

4. The Anguilla Community Foundation was providing reimbursement funding for those who sent books via the Post Office’s Home Shopping scheme. They had no rules. The Post Office charge is the same for one book as for a cubic foot of books.Well-meaning people were shipping single used books with a US yard sale value of 10c or 25c, paying postage to Miami, and then the Community Foundation were reimbursing people EC$14.00 for ocean freight. It was a waste of resources, and the initiative soon came to an end.

5. The Seven Seas Cruising Association shipped books to Anguilla. Tropical Shipping donated the ocean freight. A couple of truckloads of good books, mostly for children, found their way to the Library. That project ended successfully.

6. Four years ago, the Rotary Club of Anguilla made an effort to bring in used books from closing-down schools in Canada. The books were rejected by the librarians when they arrived as they were “old and dirty”, ie, they had been previously used. The Club would never attempt such a project again.

Such initiatives sometimes uncover a single donor who provides a massive amount of good stuff. It also sometimes happens that people send all their rubbish to Anguilla, thus adding to our landfill problem at Corito. There is no doubt that care and supervision is needed.

It is the Librarian’s job to co-ordinate this. He could be coerced or insulted into doing this job. But, does he have the staff with the ability to do it right?

This is the tip of a large iceberg of visitors who have a genuine interest in the people of our island, and the means and interest to help in some way, but who don’t know what to do or who to trust. They are an untapped possible source of membership of our voluntary organizations. But, we lack the administrative skills to marshal the potential. None of us outside the tourism sector makes any real effort to communicate with visiting philanthropists who could provide nearly unlimited assistance for the education of our children.

That should not be surprising. If the standard of a country’s public library is a barometer of the nation’s learning, then Anguilla is at the centre of a storm of illiteracy. Our public library’s resources are pathetically inadequate. There are so few paper-based educational and research resources on the shelves that it is a laughable institution.

My Trinidad High School library had the works of Cicero, Josephus and Julius Caesar, of Homer and Plato, the seven surviving plays of Sophocles, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of Pope, among many thousands of other “old” and “new” books. By the time I was fifteen, my school-mates and I had dipped repeatedly into the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary, the Encyclopedias Britannica and Americana, all while playing and fighting as boys are wont to do. The shelves were over ten feet high. A stepladder was needed for the higher shelves. The works with the rude passages, such as Chaucer, were kept behind lock and key. Not that that was any obstacle for ingenious boys. The books on the top shelves were frequently borrowed, perhaps for the same reason. From Form 1 onwards, every boy had to hand in once a week at an English language class a “book review” or be punished with the removal of privileges.

Check out for yourselves the shelves of the public library of Anguilla. There are very few of them compared with a real library. They are about five feet high, half as tall as they should be. There are very few interesting books on them. The place is mainly used by schoolchildren to hang out in between classes and to get free access to the internet.

Don’t even ask about the library at the High School.

You should not be surprised if I tell you how few of our Form 6 students have the ability to write at a standard above that expected fifty years ago throughout the West Indies of Form 2 pupils.


  1. Is the reading of a book doomed by the Internet? There are those who think so. I still remember too many power outages to trust the computer completely.

    I remember once a grandmother from the States that tried to bring down new reading books when she found out that her grandson was learning to read from mimeographed pages. She didn't get clearance from the govt. beforehand. She got a royal run-around. They couldn't accept books for just one school, they wanted her to bring books for all schools. (On her schoolteacher's salary that was impossible.) They finally settled on rotating the books through the school system. The experience rather discouraged any further attempts.

    There are many who would gladly contribute. I do tend to agree that used books are generally not acceptable. For years, books in the school were obsolete ones sent from Mother England...

    But, if there were to be a site where people could donate funds toward books--and be assured that the books would actually get to the libraries, I think they would find donations.

  2. Don, is this a cause you're willing to take up? If it is, I think I can help. Maybe? I know Tropical will give me a good deal on shipping, and if not, the freight costs are fairly cheap anyway. - Scotty

  3. Schools should focus on teaching reading. If one can read, one can learn any subject. It is an everlasting shame that young people are going through the school system and cannot read worth a darn!

  4. I am an adult who consider myself highly educated. I have been one of the beneficiaries of books that were donated to Anguilla in the 1970's by the Ranfurly Library and other sources. I am not sure if the books came out of Canada or out of the UK.

    I also know that just after the revolution (with the building of "Cosely School" many of us got added reading material that were donated by schools and libraries from Canada and the U.S..

    We did not consider the material useless. It made a difference in the lives of those that had access to the material. It is only those who lack education and also lack value for education would make the negative statements about donated reading material.

  5. Did you know that the United States of America was *more* literate *before* the advent of compulsory education than *after*?

    One wonders what would happen to Anguilla's youth if they were not *forced* to be in school, and, instead, were allowed to work when they were old enough to *choose* to do so.

    Or if Anguillian parents were allowed to homeschool their children.

    Or, if private schools were allowed to go into business without the requirement of one of the founders being, say, related to a high government official. Or without any regulation whatsoever except market discipline.

    Or, if the government sold off its schools to the highest bidder and saved itself a little money in the process.

    In this age of ubiquitous internetworks and practically free, yes, "free as in beer", information, the "need" for the state to warehouse children and train them up to be nice, orderly factory employees seems a little long in the tooth, don't you think? Wouldn't children be better served to be with their parents more, and, perhaps, to learn the morals and manners their parents have themselves?

  6. Copied from "Anguilla Forum"

    So wonderful to see people are interested in bringing books to the island. Juday alerted me of the posts. Islandbooks.ai is still operating but with the loss of Teacher Art and Bob Greene unable to be located (administrator of website) the project has slowed. Teacher Paula at the Allyson Allwyn Primary in the West End has been trying to keep the program going. Books and school supplies can be dropped at the school and they will be distibuted equitably amongst the schools. The concept originally was for all guests to bring a few books in their beachbags. People were more generous and wanted to send boxes. Shipping was a problem which was resolved for a bit with a postal arrangement supported by the Anguillan Fondation. I don't think that is still in effect. The AHTA was instrumental and supportive and had a drop off site. I am not sure if they still do. Most hotels will be happy to direct you to any school nearby for a more informal dropoff. So please bring books if you can. They will be appreciated by all. I will be happy to answer further questions. My email is on the website. www.islandbooks.ai

    All the best and thank-you.


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