Thursday, December 9, 2010



The National Library Service is an ambiguous government department. In a nation shy of computer ownership and internet availability at a low price, the current role with books is self evident. There is for the majority of citizens no other source of information, or pleasure reading. Is the Library Service at a point of being phased out in the modernized world?
Before the library service can be phased out, the nation is still going to need lower internet monthly prices and more accessibility in the rural parts. So given the constant budget and money problems of ensuing governments, who exist by borrowing for everything under the sun, against future revenues, it does not seem like we are going to get either widespread computers, either in homes, schools, or libraries over the next ten year plan.
The previous PUP government accepted that the LIBRARY SERVICE in Belize had a role to play for the next generation of students. To some extent they succeeded in acquiring FREE internet service to major district libraries and some other big towns. The idea was to make the DISTRICT libraries a place of learning through availability of FREE COMPUTERS and INTERNET SERVICE, in lieu of the problem of financing computer labs for every primary school throughout the country.
Since the UDP came into office, the national library program as it existed has been allowed to continue, though equipment updates and such have been curtailed and absolescence has not been met. The status quo has been the rule.
The library service is low on the priority list for any money. Given that librarians still get salaries that is a major thing. Most other things are done by baking sales, money raising parties, fund raisers of every kind and donations almost totally for everything from books, to bookshelves to volunteers giving tiles and tiling the floors in buildings.
The problem that faces the UDP CABINET is what is the future 10 year role of the National Library Service and if anything, what will they be able to do about it?
Bucking heads for scarce money is the EDUCATION DEPARTMENT and the NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE. The education department in charge of schools have monumental problems with 11,000 children without school classrooms and a shortage of 500 schools and 2000 classrooms. Everybody is low on the priority list. How can it be otherwise with a nation that is subsisting on BORROWING THE FUTURE. A government run by loans!
We are like a person who falls off a boat 25 miles from land. You can swim and doggy paddle, but can only pray a storm does not arise, if you are going to make it to that distant shore, that you cannot see. Belize is like that when it comes to money. We have an educated elite now, more than ever before in the nation´s history. Just listen to the language and vocabulary in crystal clear bureaucratic baloney you get fed. If talk was money, we would all be rich.
Getting back to the future ten years, we would like computer labs in every primary school, standard 5 & 6 classroom. Where it is mandatory for children to learn to type with both hands and all their fingers, learn to navigate the internet with a search engine and find out things, that will make them money eventually in their adulthood and raise the revenues and GDP of our country. As things stand right now this is not going to happen! We do not have the money and the priorities are more immediate than that.
Failing that goal, then a substitute goal back 10 years ago was to make libraries in all the towns, and give them FREE INTERNET and a computer lab. The library was to become the center for FREE INTERNET and computer labs, to learn how to find out information. It didn´t work out. What happened?
Well first off, the libraries ended up for the most part with a couple of good computers from donors and a bunch of junk computers, 7 or more years old, donated. They did the best they could, but nationwide internet was then a MONOPOLY and not easily available anyway. The internet revolution more or less outside of the 9 towns, skipped most of the nation of Belize. Internet Cafes filled in the role, but these were pay by the hour type operations and didn´t serve everybody, only the tertiary educated elite.
Libraries could not resist using the internet facility for raising money and charged fees, competitive with faster, slicker and better operations in commercial Internet Cafes that developed over the next few years. This defeated the purpose intended. A recent conversation with a senior hiearcheal library person from Belize City, showed me how OUT OF TOUCH they were with people. The claim was that people could afford the internet in a library. What a bunch of balderdash. I myself switched from the LIBRARY internet computers to the internet cafes, because they gave better service, cleaner environment and cheaper prices. How about people in my community, adults and children alike, that walk on our rain washed, sharp rock strewn streets without shoes, because our streets are low on the priority list for scarce monies. The bureaucracy in government often have a mistaken conception of life in the boonies outside of their major population centers. True we have a growing middle class, but the majority of people, particularly young people just starting families, do not have money to spare. The example was given me about Benque Viejo building a part of their library from funds raised for the library charging for the alleged FREE INTERNET. Well that is the exception. Benque, Corozal, Orange Walk, San Pedro, Caye Caulker and Belize City are the exceptions throughout the nation of Belize. They have cash flow in their town councils, they have cohesive local government and strong sense of community. It is not so elsewhere in the majority of the country. Elsewhere people are struggling to survive and get ahead.
The BIG PICTURE to me for the next ten years, is that the DISTRICT LIBRARIES will be cheaper to fill the role of teaching primary school children how to use the internet, which is the FUTURE, than the education department trying to make a computer lab, for each primary school. I don´t see that happening at all, even though that is the MISSION STATEMENT. To do this, the libraries will have to have computer labs, with good computers, roughly a dozen or more each and FREE. No printers, as the libraries have no budget at all, other than salaries, and exist from donations, or local fund raisers. The trick will be maintaining the computer lab and assigning a maintainance budget from national tax funds, for a computer lab in the district libraries to keep them FREE and bring in those primary school children. The FUTURE of the nation as it is often said, lie with this upcoming generation and THEIR future lies with internet educated capability. They can teach themselves any trade and skill almost under the sun from online videos and forums, better than any high school, or college. In an education deficient country like ours, we have to expand the opportunities to grasp the future through these children, not just a class division between the have nots and elite money people versus the majority. The world has changed around us and we are just not maximizing our human resources good enough to compete yet.

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