“Being here is nostalgic. It still has some great reading books. This was the first library I ever gained membership to in primary school. I still have a library card…there are only so many Starbucks, so I use the library. I like the aura of libraries.” ~ Lester A. Beneby
By Hadassah Deleveaux (née Hall)
As I passed the myriad of bookshelves and ascended the staircase of the over the hill library established 69 years ago, I saw sitting at a table, a studious-looking man whom I took a chance and approached. Although engrossed with what was on his laptop, I was relieved when he agreed to chat with me.
Lester A. Beneby is his name. With silver streaks in his hair, Lester told me of his love for libraries and for books. In fact, he revealed that he still has a library card for the Lillian G. Weir-Coakley Public Library, formerly known as the Southern Public Library. Next to his laptop was the book, he is currently reading, ‘Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul,’ by Deepak Chopra.
He spoke of his grandmother, Alvria Beneby, whom he credits for introducing him to the library, perched on a hill between C. R. Walker Senior High School and the public clinic on Baillou Hill Road in historic Grants Town.
“I read every night before bed,” said the man, who is in his 50s, “I miss my grandmother,” he added.
“My grandmother couldn’t read or write, but she would bring me here. She would flip through newspapers and I would flip through books. Even though my father bought me a kindle, I still like the feel of a hardback book – with a little warm milk, cinnamon and nutmeg,” he said, causing me to chuckle.
Lester is in ship management and was in the library that day preparing for a course he is scheduled to teach. Interestingly, these many decades later, he still finds time to visit the library his grandmother would take him to as a boy.
“Being here is nostalgic. It still has some great reading books. This was the first library I ever gained membership to in primary school. I still have a library card. Whenever I am in country, I would pop in if I have an hour or two to rejuvenate. There are only so many Starbucks, so I use the library. I like the aura of libraries,” he noted.
In fact, as we conversed, Lester pointed to a nearby window.
“By the way, the view is great. I take in a lot of my environment. I could see the Southern Recreation Grounds and the big silk cotton tree. I had no idea of the extent to what they were developing, until I sat here. There’s a green space – not just the baseball park,” said the observant Lester.
Additionally, Lester revealed that the library, although still useful, is losing its appeal.
“It gives me a happy feeling, but I’m also saddened by it. Its demise is near. It needs more audio/visual equipment. It needs microfiche etc. It has to become more relevant, giving the currency of the time,” he stated.
Following our conversation, I descended the staircase, but not before glimpsing a drawer of what I believe was a card catalogue. By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs and was about to exit, I then spotted the newspaper rack, bringing back memories of my days when I visited the library on Mackey Street.
I stopped at the circulation desk, where I met Genesta Stuart-Baker. She has worked in libraries for an astonishing 36 years. Her career in the field began at the Southern Public Library and four years ago she returned – this time as supervisor, having come full circle.
“I like information and disseminating it. I like research. This is my passion. If I wasn’t passionate about it, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” she said matter-of-factly.
Questioned as to the level of research being conducted at the library, particularly in the internet age, the librarian said students who come from far and wide still dig in.
“We have some who still want to get in books and collect information. If you are a real researcher, you examine the information and the source,” said Ms. Stuart-Baker.
“Also, a lot of children don’t have computers at home, so they come to get their work done,” she added.
For Edina Dolcine, she does have a computer at home; it’s the printer that’s missing.
“I’m willing to sacrifice my mid-term break,” said the high schooler after I asked her how come she was at the library during mid-term.
The 15-year-old caught the bus from her First Street, the Grove residence to the library. In fact, the young lady who confessed to usually conducting research online, revealed that she had been to the library twice during the previous week and on the day we met. I was impressed, as it proves her determination to complete her assignment.
Edina’s Religious Studies’ research was on the plot of Jesus, which ultimately led to his death.
Going to the library for me that day, brought back many memories. It seemed like an old, familiar place. When I was a youngster, I would go to the library on Mackey Street and the Archives which was just below it, before the latter moved into a building to the rare of the property. I know about conducting research within such walls of intellectual stimulation.
I left the library – a place which has been an educational pillar for generations – still believing that it has its place. Despite the fact that in today’s society, newspapers are published online and you can read books via e-readers, libraries remain relevant. And in the apt words of prolific writer, Mark Twain, they are, “The most enduring of memorials.”