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The Jamaica Library Service Embraces the Use of Technology in its Services


JIS: The library community has been evolving and remains quite relevant in a technologically-driven society through the array of services it offers to meet the demands of users.


The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) consists of 119 fixed locations, that is, 13 parish libraries and 106 branch libraries.


There is also a mobile library service which caters to some 370 communities island wide.


The Jamaica Library Service offers free access to computers, internet and other electronic resources to enable persons to utilize a range of informational, educational and recreational resources.


Additionally, well trained computer specialists are available in the thirteen (13) parish library networks to ensure that technical problems are solved quickly and users enjoy reliable and efficient computer services. Basic computer training is also offered to members of the public.


Director General at the JLS, Karen Barton, tells JIS News that the library’s services have long gone beyond just lending books, but now expands to meeting the demands of the entire community.


“We are expecting to reach as many Jamaicans as possible, who have access to all our libraries and mobile units. We are also on a mission to increase our membership as many persons feel that the library is just about books, but the library is more like the community hub, where you can fulfil educational and academic needs and so, we are targeting a large number of persons in order for the community to be transformed through technology,” she tells says.


The Director General informs that through a US$2-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative, and US$1.1 million from the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the JLS have been significantly transforming public libraries across the island through increased access to technology.


Through the project, the JLS has acquired 1,063 new state-of-the-art information and communications technology (ICT) resources to use in its 119 public libraries and has installed over 150 wireless access points across public libraries, which will enable users to enjoy increased Wi-Fi access.


In terms of training, more than 600 JLS staff members participated in customer service, digital literacy and social media courses, while some 2,000 library users received training in basic computer and digital literacy.


Come April 1, the JLS will be implementing an Integrated Library Management System (ILMS) called Koha, to improve the efficiency of the library’s operations as well as service for users.

Koha, an automated open-source management system will allow library users to obtain access to search online catalogue from anywhere in the world.


She explains that the JLS’s collection will be accessible online where persons can go to do a google-like search to see what is available. Users will be able to see which location the material is at and how many copies are at that specific library.


The ILMS will also allow persons to reserve resource material for borrowing and give access to online research facilities.


“Members of the libraries will be able to access EBSCO research services, which is a database that we (JLS) subscribe to that provides e-resources, journals and other information. So, a user will be able to utilise this facility outside of the library, from anywhere, as long as he or she is a member and has a membership number,” she points out.


Additionally, the JLS has introduced information and communications technology programmes and services to its users in the 13 parish libraries and select branch libraries.


Students are able to participate in the tablet sessions, library members will enjoy unlimited Wi-Fi access, while all users can participate in the photography and robotics clubs.


“We also cater to the visually impaired and is equipped with the relevant software such as the accessibility options that come with the Microsoft operating system to facilitate this group. We have summer programmes for children and employ students aged 14 to 16 to assist in carrying out these programmes,” she outlines.


She adds that the seniors have not been left behind as they can benefit from basic computer training, learning how to use the mouse and connect with loved ones abroad through Skype.


“We also have career development programmes where we help persons to write their resumes as our staff is trained to use the Labour Market Information System (LMIS) that is done by the Ministry of Labour & Social Security…so persons looking for jobs, we can assist them in properly preparing their resume to match the suitable position,” she adds.


The JLS also hosts the annual National Reading Competition for ages six to 99 and strives for a mixture of good literature with a variety of settings and themes appropriate for the varied age groups.


“So we have reading competitions and reading club; writing, chess, technology and digi-art clubs, and the clubs change in focus based on the demand because we have to be relevant,” Mrs. Barton notes.


“So librarianship is dynamic and is not just about books anymore…all of our librarians have to be trained in technology because all of the administrative and operational procedures are all technology-based…research is technology based as you have to know how to use all the online resources and database,” the Director General reasons.


She reiterates that the JLS remains relevant as it embraces and utilizes technology to meet the needs of its users.


“The library service is on the move and we implore persons to utilise the services and benefit from what is being provided…we know that technology is the way and the library is not going to be left behind,” she affirms.


CAPTION: Director General at the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), Karen Barton highlights the programmes and initiatives offered to improve the efficiency of the library’s operations, as well as services for users. She was addressing a recent JIS Think Tank.