Having recently mentioned the Antigua and Barbuda Public Library Author of the Month series (specifically the launch of a book by Kevroy Graham earlier this year) in the Carib Lit Plus series, the arts round up series here on the blog, it seemed timely (overdue actually, since this is an Antigua and Barbuda literary platform) to give some information on the NPL author series overall.
The series has featured a mid-afternoon tea and coffee, author reading and book signing, and book sale with Brenda Lee Browne and her book London Rocks, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst and his various non-fiction books , Timothy Payne (writer and photographer who died in 2020) , S. E. James (author of several books for children beginning with Tragedy on Emerald Island), Janice Sutherland (who presented her self-help book This Woman Can!), Kimolisa Mings (author of both poetry and fiction, e.g. She wanted a Love Poem and Saving Babylon, respectively), former Wadadli Pen volunteer and activist Claytine Nisbett (who presented her Life as Josephine and led a discussion on ‘the empowered girl’), and Sylvanus Barnes (poet) .
I haven’t had the opportunity to be an Author of the Month as yet but I did reach out to deputy director Carolyn Spencer last year for information and she indicated that the programme’s aim is to introduce the local community to its authors. She explained that authors are invited to display their books and read excerpts, and that selections are done based on availability during the months of January – November. I imagine that with the COVID-19 lockdown everything has been on pause or has been disrupted, I don’t know for sure. I did express my interest in doing something in 2020 – it has been a dream to do an author event and to do more workshop activities at the public library and even, as I’ve proposed, an author/writer in residence programme (where the resident author has office hours and the goal of fostering engagement between the Library and the community’s writers and readers by providing instruction on the craft of writing, serving as library ambassador, and more).
So, fingers crossed for the future.
Quick history of the National Public Library – it was founded in 1830, four years before Emancipation, as a private venture; the library had its first destruction by quake in 1843 and on rebuilding the government assumed ownership in 1854 and put trustees in place to run things; the second destruction by quake was in 1974
forcing the removal of the library from lower High Street to a number of temporary homes including Silston Library, ironically a library founded by someone who had once been denied access to the Public Library as a youth, and then to where I knew it growing up, and where I worked as library shelf duster and stacker one summer, upstairs a Market Street storefront – it had its problems
; the long running and sometimes controversial library building project finally culminated with the 2014 opening of the Hailes Promenade new library building, between East Bus Station and Botanical Gardens.
We’ve written about the library’s long plight before here on the blog. And the library is personally important to me, as a space for children like I once was to have access to books irrespective of their resources – which is why I make a point of donating copies of my books going back to The Boy from Willow Bend so that they can be on the shelves for all. Pictured below is the contribution of 15 copies of Musical Youth, a CODE/Burt Award prize winningbook, made by myself and the CODE programme to a library representative invited to the launch in 2014.
Initiatives like the Author of the Month series – and the movie events, summer read initiatives (shout out to the Friends of Antigua Public Library), presentations on topics of community interest like glaucoma, environmental matters, and breast cancer, Library Week, Easter camp, book launches like that of Dr. Natasha Lightfoot’s Troubling Freedom, classes in various skills, workshops like ones I’ve done there (running afoul of and questioning the dress code in the process), and more will hopefully go a long way (and is undoubtedly already going a long way) towards asserting (in a community that had to make-do for too long) the place and value of a library as a literary and community space in modern society.