Press Release from the St.Maarten Rotary Club: A Presentation to the Philipsburg Jubilee Library

Continuing with the literacy theme of 2009, the St. Maarten Rotary Club started 2010 with a presentation about Philipsburg Jubilee Library.  

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Mrs. Monique Alberts who has been the director of the island’s public library since February 2008 discussed with members and guests of the Club the history, current activities and future plans of the library..

Mrs. Alberts who has a background in Political and Library science in Amsterdam also worked at the National Library of Aruba until 2006.

She explained that the public library was one of the three libraries founded in the Windward Islands on November 23rd 1923, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina and named the Philipsburg Jubilee Library in honor of Her Majesty.

The PJ Library was housed on several locations, including the Court House, until 1968 when it found domicile at the Cultural Center on Backstreet where the "Dutch Children’s Library" was also housed. In the same year qualified Librarian Blanca Hodge moved to the island and Lt . Governor Beaujon decided to merge the two libraries maintaining the name the Philipsburg Jubilee Library.

With a professional approach the library was upgraded, books were catalogued etc. During the 1970 the staff grew from 1 to 12 members and soon the Cultural Center became too small. With a building 20 times the size of the backstreet location and extremely modern for the time with a steel structure, the PJ Library found a permanent domicile in 1984 on Vogesstreet, the current location. But the building was not the only modern aspect, in fact it was also considered modern because the PJ Library was the first Automated Library in the Netherlands Antilles However, 16 yaars later the current building is now considered outdated and plans are being made for a new building.

With the changing demands of users the Philipsburg Jubilee Library has been introducing innovations. Since 1998 the library can be found on the Internet at

The constitutional changes will also result in changes and the PJ Library will become the National Library of country St Maarten. "This means we will preserve all publications published in St Maarten safeguard them for new generations. Already we have a lot of unique reports books newspapers (nowhere else) Digitization/Scanning of these materials is also important".

The PJL has 5400 members, 61000 books/DVDs and 40.000 visitors a year.

While the library is certainly important to promote reading, it is also a gateway for information. "Life long learning-independent decision making-cultural anddevelopment are in our mission statement. Reading and Writing are Basic skills people need to enable themselves to live in a self-responsible and independent way. But today these basic skills also include media literacy, the ability to use the modern information and communication tools in a critical and responsible way" says the library director.

"To become responsible- empowered citizens in the new country St. Maarten citizens have to be literate and media literate and the library is committed to this task".

The services of the Library do not only include a collection of fiction and non fiction books but also Movies on DVD as well as Language courses on DVD, a small Computer centre which also gives access to the internet. ( Only for teenagers-adults)

Plans are being made for a new computer centre for children because many users would otherwise not have access, for various reasons, to computers or the internet. Since last year the automated catalogue is on line making it possible to research materials and extend borrowing periods of library materials on line.

Projects being worked on are the Bookmobile outreach project + Bookstart for babies and toddlers. In the absence of branches in different districts on the island the newly (Feb. 2009) acquired library bus visits the schools in the mornings and every afternoon 8 different – afternoon schools- and community centers are visited in the different districts. A qualified staff member tells stories and engages in educational activities with the children in the bus. Also an opportunity is provided to check in and check out books in the bus.

Reading promotion Activities include Children’s Book week /Summer Reading program as well as Reading Competition which are well known annual activities as well as the volunteer run Reach out and read program organized by ROAT on Saturday mornings for the more challenged readers.

Mrs. Alberts explained that in cooperation with SIFMA, last year a new program "Bookstart St Maarten" was initiated aimed at Babies and toddlers. This program focuses on the importance parents familiarizing babies and toddlers with reading which improves their performance once they attend school. This program will be done on a larger scale this year, involving all daycare centers, but for this program much is still needed such as equipment and picture books for the special baby /toddler room.