Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Scrapping new library a backward step

Oppression is when privileged people use their position to undermine the rights of others. Democratic governments should prevent oppression however, at times the State apparatus becomes the instrument of oppression. In the borough of Chaguanas this means the Government’s plan to convert the people’s long awaited custom-designed library into a judicial complex.

The substantial custom-designed library being constructed in Chaguanas will require expensive and time-consuming work to convert it to a court complex, so much so that it may take about the same length of time as would be required to construct a court complex from scratch. I advise that a new court complex be built, so that at the end there would be both a purpose-designed court complex and a custom-designed library.

The authorities have made the baseless argument that a simple Internet connection could provide library access, so that libraries will soon be obsolete. They do not recognise that because of copyright restrictions many documents cannot be digitised for the Internet. Furthermore, isolated studies can limit one’s comprehension, and there is need to cultivate a community of enquiry where there can be social negotiation and discourse.

Where will be the control centre for digitised information? Modern libraries can also lend musical instruments, e-readers and laptops, so critical in an area where there are high levels of poverty. Modern libraries serve as cultural centres where important documents and illustrations can be stored in original form for scholars and researchers. Furthermore, community cohesion is enhanced when people can exhibit their creations in an appropriate setting. There can be discussions, debates, and web conferences to engender sophisticated thinking, motivating people towards intellectual, cultural and artistic pursuits.

The absence of such facilities has no doubt contributed to the low level of resilience among some young people to gang membership and deviant behaviour. Consequently the decision to convert this library into a court complex can contribute to the growth of criminal activity among the youth in particular. This decision therefore nullifies all the noble public rhetoric about the Government’s commitment to crime reduction.

I was heartened when consultations on the move to city status were advertised. However, this event began with a series of presentations by Government Ministers who outlined their plans for the city. After 35 minutes someone pointed out that the consultations should have influenced planning for the new city. Instead, citizens were confronted with “done deals”. This seems dishonest and unworthy of a Government that promised to serve the people.

At that venue, the Minister of Tertiary Education, declared that Chaguanas would become an “Education City”, yet the authorities have decided to destroy the purpose-designed library as a first-step towards that end.

David Subran