April 19, 2002 – Do you owe any fines for borrowed books you returned late at a local public library? Or, worse, do you have any library books lying around that you've failed to return?
The good news is that as of this week, for three of the territory's four public libraries, you can find out right here at your computer.
And the better news may be that if you've got overdue books checked out, you can return them now and have the fines forgiven. (Fines run 10 cents per book per day, by the way.)
This all has to do with National Library Week, which is being celebrated through Saturday. The week is nearly over, but there are still special events and offerings going on at all of the territory's public libraries — Enid M. Baa on St. Thomas, Florence Williams in Christiansted, Athalie McFarlane Petersen in Frederiksted and Elaine Ione Sprauve on St. John.
The American Library Association chose "Rediscover America @ Your Library" as the theme for National Library Week this year. The ALA adopted the "@ your library" phrase several years ago in acknowledgment of the pervasive part computers play in libraries today. Both have been integrated into the promotional outreach for the local libraries within the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums of the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Sharleen Harris, libraries director, says one of the good things about National Library Week is that it "allows libraries and the communities they serve to form partnerships."
One partnership/promotion that's been taking place all week at the Baa, Williams and Petersen libraries is a children's activity. Library staffers collected plain paper bags from merchants who have visitor-oriented shops, and children have been adorning them with their original artwork. The merchants will get the decorated bags back to use them for customers' purchases.
"The idea originated from Petersen Library," Frederiksted head librarian Slyvie Renaud says. "In a meeting we were saying 'What are we going to do for library week?' It was the idea of Tiffany Flores on the library staff." Renaud decided to combine the observances of library week and Earth Day at her library, and the children's bag art there reflects ecological themes.
At the Baa Library, head librarian Diane Moody says the young artists' work reflects both ecological and reading themes.
The project is a partnering not only with the merchants but also with the government in support of the territory's No. 1 industry, Renaud notes: "It's indirect tourism advertising for the Virgin Islands."
Other special events this week — many of them still to come or ongoing — have ranged from traditional storytelling at Baa to a photographic exhibition at Sprauve to live radio broadcasts and the annual Run to Your Library at Williams.
Meanwhile, lots has been happening locally on the "@ your library" front. The libraries division has had its own web site for some time — at library.gov.vi. This week, the Baa and Williams libraries launched their own web pages as part of the site, joining Sprauve, which became the trail blazer long ago. Renaud says she hopes to have the Petersen page in operation by next month.
Prior to this week, the web page "didn't take you anywhere," Harris says, adding, "We intend to have a lot more up there soon." The site is noticeably lacking in graphics, but she's working on that right now. "I have taken lots of pictures this week for the Children's Corner and will be loading them up," she says
The site allows patrons to do searches to see if books they are looking for are among the libraries' holdings and, if so, whether they are available for borrowing. You can verify each library's hours of operation, find out what special events are scheduled and, by entering the bar code number on your library card, submit a change of address or find out if you owe any fines.
Meanwhile, at the physical libraries, staff are willing and able to show patrons how the Dynex automated card catalog system works. With new computers due to be installed later this year thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the libraries will be upgrading and expanding their electronic services.
Another special event of the week was the reopening of the Kiosk library in Sunny Isle on St. Croix. At this mini-library, patrons can return books borrowed from either Williams or Petersen, as well as peruse and check out other offerings and even make photocopies.
Here's a look at what's still on tap at each library:
Elaine Ione Sprauve, Cruz Bay
A collection of 45 color photographs of the world's peoples has been on exhibit this week and will be set up again next week. St. John photographer Tony Scimeca took the pictures last May when he was a member of the Virgin Islands delegation attending the formal ceremonies opening a series of ornate terraces reflecting the world's cultures that were constructed at the world Baha'i headquarters in Haifa, Israel.
The Baha'i faith draws its membership from throughout the world, and some 3,000 persons attended the ceremonies, Scimeca said. His 8-by-10 photos are mounted on room dividers that make the show moveable and "non-invasive" — that is, there's no need to pound nails or affix adhesive on walls. There are plans to exhibit the pictures in May at the Baa Library, which currently is featuring a collection historic pictures of industrial installations on St. Thomas.
The Friends of the Sprauve Library group tied in to library week in its drive to raise about $65,000 to air condition the library. "They are soliciting from St. John rental property owners," librarian Carol McGuinness said. "They handed out slip cards asking for a donation and suggesting this one week's rental." She added, "We're happy with anything people donate."
Enid M. Baa, Charlotte Amalie
Traditional storytelling that has been taking place at 3:30 p.m. all week in the Children's Reading Room concludes Friday with a presentation by Lois Hassell Habteyes. Earlier, Elmo D. Roebuck, Gilbert Sprauve, Nancy Christie and Robert Luke had their time in the center of the circle, and on Wednesday Steve Prosterman performed his clown, juggling and magic act, too.
Saturday will bring the normal children's reading program from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This one, Moody said, will feature "humorous poetry — listening, reading, and for the older children maybe even writing some." Christie will be leading a related crafts project — "making fairy wings" out of cardboard and "fairy dust."
Florence A. Williams, Christiansted
Along with children busily decorating bags all week, the library has been the scene of school field trips and senior citizen visits, head librarian Wallace Williams said. There was a presentation for seniors on materials and equipment available for the physically handicapped and the Elena Christian Junior High School band performed. A collection of archival papers, books and photographs relating to St. Croix's Estate Bethlehem that was recently brought to the Virgin Islands from Denmark by Wayne James is on display — and "will be there for a while," Williams says.
At 5:30 p.m. Friday, Robert Vaughn, a photographer and retired St. Croix school librarian with a love of computer technology, will present a lecture-demonstration on "Art in the World of Technology" in the Children's Theater.
Vaughn says he will describe the methods he uses to create electronic art and will present a digital slide show demonstrating "different types of artwork utilizing a computer" — straight photography, photography metamorphosis, line drawings, commercial art/graphic arts and fauve design, a term from around the Impressionist era tha
t refers to taking liberties in rearranging nature, such as reversing colors.
At 6 a.m. Saturday is the 19th annual Run to Your Library, a 5k event hosted by V.I. Pace Runners, sponsored by the Friends of the Williams Library and organized by the library staff. Pre-registration isn't necessary; you can pay your $5 fee prior to the start of the run, which both departs and finishes at the library. "There will be library-type prizes," Williams — an accomplished runner — says.
At 7 a.m., radio host Abdul Ali will conduct his weekly exercise program live from the library. And the hour after that, he'll do his weekly story hour there, too. (And on Saturday mornings from now on, the library will have its own children's story hour, Williams says.) There will be face painting and food and used-book sales in the courtyard and on the balcony. At 11 a.m., the Guardians of Culture moko jumbies from Alexander Henderson Elementary School and bands from Central and Educational Complex high schools will perform. Poetry reading for all ages will begin at 1 p.m.
"Somewhere in the day," Williams says,"we're going to acknowledge a gift from Mid-Island Rotary, which donates a book to the library for every guest speaker they have." He gets to choose the titles and says his requests are for non-fiction adult books. And soon, he adds, the library will name the Caribbean collection housed on its third floor for Ena Henderson, librarian at the old library that was located in the Old Customs House.
Athalie McFarlane Petersen, Frederiksted
In addition to the children's bag decorating, the library is featuring a used-book sale this week — "some donated, some from the shelves," Renaud says. And storytelling is going on all day Friday right up until closing time at 5 p.m.
One event that isn't taking this week but will in the foreseeable future, Renaud says, is the reopening of the Dorsch Community Center and Theater next door. The facility, which falls within the libraries division, has been closed since Hurricane Hugo, but she says with enthusiasm, "We are definitely working on the center and it will be opened again."
And while it's not about National Library Week, Renaud says there's a message she wants to get out to the territory's teachers at this time: "Come and check the library out first before you assign a book for summer reading." The same applies for teachers who want to use outside reading by students to supplement their class assignment, she adds.
"We have 'Charlotte's Web,' yes, but we have only one copy," she explains. "If 40 kids come in wanting the book, some children will have to wait a long time," and some may not get it at all. "We really would appreciate for the teachers to come and see what is available," she says.
And one to come?
By this time next year, if the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries group has its way, there will be another library listing, at least on the drawing board. The group changed its name last year from Friends of the Enid M. Baa Library because one of its missions is to see a second public library developed on St. Thomas at a location suitable to serve the heavily populated eastern half of the island. The focus has been on Tutu Park Mall and a ruins site behind Tillett Gardens, but decisions have yet to be made.
The reactivated friends group, which got the Saturday Children's Reading Program going at Baa a year ago, has a number of other initiatives under way. They include Tuesday morning "story time for toddlers and lap babies" presentations by prior arrangement for schools and day-care centers; outreach to children at pediatric clinics; and the development of a book and magazines cart at Roy L. Schneider Hospital, an audio-book collection for Baa Library and used-book collections for the local hospital, jail and senior centers.

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