With Rotarians distributing free books to children and the library’s bookmobile parked outside Fort Frederik, issuing library cards and letting patrons check out materials, the event marked a first pairing of the two organizations, all in the name of reading.
According to Territorial Director of Libraries, Archives and Museums Ingrid Bough, the partnership was natural.
“We’ve always had a relationship with the Rotary. In particular, Rotaries have always included libraries in some of their initiatives,” Bough said. “We know that literacy is important for the Rotary Clubs.”
She said just three years ago St. Croix Rotary West donated $2500 worth of children’s books.
Rotary spokeswoman Sandra Gerard-Leung said promoting literacy is one of the organization’s mainstay goals.
“Literacy is one of the seven areas of Rotary. Literacy is really big and we just wanted to come out and assist the children that don’t have books or don’t have a lot of books and give them the opportunity to get some books or hear some stories. We just want to say to them, ‘This is important,’” Gerard-Leung said.
According to the most recent data available from the CIA’s World Fact Book, the literacy rate in the territories is estimated to be between 90 and 95 percent. The agency defines determining the literacy rate as anyone age 15 and older that can read and write.
The idea behind the bookmobile, Bough said, was to take and promote literacy across the entire island.
“The bookmobile is available to the entire community for family events, school events and we try to make our circulation throughout the community in areas where the children may not have the availability to get to the library,” Bough said. “It’s a library on wheels and we take the library to them. It’s very important for education, lifelong learning and literacy.”
Bough said the library’s current bookmobile has been operating for about 5 years and offers visitors Internet access, a DVD system, books for check out and computer use.
Natacha Maldonado was visiting the bookmobile with her 4th grade son, Armani Doward. She’d come out because her son wanted some more books and wanted to sign up for a library card.
“He loves to read,” Maldonado said. “He’s very much into reading.”
Bough said besides the bookmobile, the library is also trying to reach Virgin Islanders through its Web site – http://www.virginislandspubliclibraries.org/. She said free children’s e-books were available for grades K – 12 online and for fiscal year 2012, there were more than 20,000 visits to the Web site used by 10,000 unique users, a nearly 53 percent increase over the previous year.
“We’re extremely delighted that although traditionally we’re not seeing as many visitors to the library, people are definitely using library sources and the resources available through the new technology medium,” she said.
Bough admitted, though, that in these budget-strapped times, funding and the ability to upgrade computer equipment was proving to be a challenge. Despite that, Bough doesn’t regret for one minute leaving the Library of Congress and her 20 years of service there behind to return to her native home.
“It’s all about service and making the wonderful information and resources available to all,” she said. “That’s the most enjoyable part of this job.”