The Barbados Public Library was established sometime around 1847. It appears that the 184's was the time for establishing libraries in the eastern Caribbean.
Notice of a bill to establish a Public Library in Barbados was given by a Mr. Young at a meeting of the House of Assembly on September 21, 1847.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Library was housed in the west wing of the Parliament Buildings, in which the Government Savings Bank was later located. Much discussion at that time was centred on having the Public Library being named after Sir Conrad Reeves Chief Justice of Barbados (1821-1902), and the great need for an appropriate building to house the Library.
The Governor at that time (William Reid, 1846-1848) made an appeal on behalf of Barbados, to Mr. Andrew Carnegie whose gifts of free libraries to towns in England were well known.
Mr. Andrew Carnegie
Mr. Carnegie made available £2,500 to erect and fit up a building in this island for the purpose of a Free Public Library.
There was much discussion at that time about this gift by legislators as they believe the gift would have been inadequate to build the needed structure, and that Government should not spend one penny on anything that could be done without.
Mr. Carnegie later increased the amount to £4,800.
There was again great contention as to the site of the new Public Library. Areas which were selected included the Gardens in Trafalgar Square, St. Mary's Gardens, Reef Lands, Ground adjacent to the Old Town Hall, and Bay Street Land.
The lands adjoining the Town Hall (later occupied by the High Court and Court of Appeal for sittings) were selected as the site. The first stone was laid on 7th June, 1904, and it was officially opened by His Excellency the Governor, Sir Gilbert Carter, 26th January, 1906. (The Public Library Movement in Barbados and Jamaica - E.L.V. Ifill)
National Library Service - Independence Square
Today, the Barbados Public Library has relocated to Independence Square, in the old Modern Living Building.
The library has been renamed under the umbrella of the National Library Service. Before relocating, it had been closed for almost three years, from August 2005 to January 30th, 2009. The building at Coleridge Street had become a sick building.
Speaking at the opening, Minister of Community Development and Culture, Steve Blackett, said that the reopening was one of the highlights of his Ministry.
The New Barbados Public Library reopening, although welcomed, now has to cater to the needs of a fast paced and a more technological savvy society, and has therefore added computer systems with internet access for the general public.
The DLP Government are to be commended, because on taking up office, almost automatically reopen the library to the general populace.
The library, however, now needs a larger space as the great demand for the services it offers are quickly overwhelmed by the young, and old alike.
The Barbados Government needs to take a leaf out of the book of that of Trinidad and Tobago, in building a spacious library, which is fully computerized. This would allow greater ease on the library and its staff, since members and the books they borrow can be easily tracked.
The National Library Service also needs its own website, with capabilities which allows one to access which books are available in the comfort of your own home. This is done at the University of The West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.
The opening of the library is very much welcomed as those who cannot afford to pay for internet access and to purchase all the books and magazines they read, will much appreciate the services.
Mission Statement of the National Library Service
"To be a centre of excellence providing comprehensive library services to satisfy the educational, informational and recreational needs of the community."
Phone: (246) 436-6081 / (246) 426-1744
Fax: (246) 436-1501