St. Lucia

Population: 186,261

244 Library Projects
109,474 New Books

St. Lucia

Blanchard Combined School

152 students • Grades K to 6
Merle Langellier Emanuel, Principal
Nephritire Ferdinand, Literacy Coordinator

Way cool makeover. Yay! It seems like every year—thanks to our dedicated and ever-busy Hands Literacy Links, Sheila Serville and Clara Paul, the island of St. Lucia sprouts multiple births of new school libraries and makeovers. Just a year ago, the library space at Blanchard Combined School, a rural school way up in the green rolling mountainscape of southern St. Lucia, had issues: old, moldy books, a leaking roof, termite-ridden bookshelves, a lack of table and chairs for students to read. Kudos to the St. Lucia Ministry of Education for coming to the rescue; now the school library is bright, colorful, and poised to blossom.

“The library space is ready for new books!” says Literacy Link Sheila Serville. “The room is painted in child-friendly murals, and a Library Team of enthusiastic teachers has been created. The library now has three triangular bookstands, ten additional bookshelves with three shelves each, and one big brown bookshelf with 12 shelves. The space also has three new round reading tables with chairs.

The Principal is excited about (finally!) having a library, and making book lending a part of the school’s culture. The library is timetabled for weekly visits by each grade, and (when the COVID lockdown eases) I will be training a Student Librarian team. The Student Librarian ‘job positions’ include Check-In, Shelver, Shelf Monitor, and Bouncer (the Bouncer regulates the number of children coming into the library to avoid overcrowding, ensures that food and drink aren’t brought in, and maintains peace and quiet in the line outside).”

Entrepot Secondary School

658 students • Grades 7 to 11
Arthur Scott, Principal
Laurelle Eugene, Literacy Coordinator

All Together Now. Generally, it’s a lot harder to create a successful lending library at a high school (Grades 7-11) than at a primary school (Grades K-6). In addition to the hormonal bombardment that hits teens, one challenge stands out: many high schoolers are addicted to their phones. Theoretically this wouldn’t be bad, in terms of literacy (“You can read on your phone!” many folks assure us), but most teens use their smartphones for games, social media, and music—all of which does little to advance the literacy skills and acquisition of useful knowledge crucial for their fast-approaching future as adults. So, it takes a concerted team effort by the school to turn around the smartphone brain drain.

At Entrepot Secondary School, a large urban school on the fringes of Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, the school staff and students have pulled together to create a vibrant, busy library. Principal Andrew Scott made it a priority. The already-busy Learning Resource Manager, Ms. Laurelle Eugene, championed fitting the library into one half of her room, taking space away from the computers, photocopiers, and more. The school built their own library shelves and tiled the floor. Ms. Oliviann Weekes, the local community librarian, donated her time and expertise, categorizing and organizing the book collection. Hands Literacy Link Clara Paul mobilized staff and students into a Library Team. Students put aside their phones and became avid readers of fiction, nonfiction, and reference.

“Ms. Eugene is extremely happy to see the increased level of interest by teachers and students in the library resources,” notes Clara Paul. “Teachers use the ‘fact books’ (on exam subjects as history, computers, science, and more) for research and lesson planning as well as to direct students who do not have their own personal copies. Teachers also read some of the novels while they sit in with their classes.” The library at Entrepot Secondary School is on the way to becoming an integral, important part of school life. Students are on the way to becoming readers and informed adults.

Laborie RC Boys Primary School

110 students • Grades K to 6
Julian Darcheville, Principal
Amanda Francis, Literacy Coordinator

The Total Takedown of the Terrible Termites. We’re not here to spin the fairy tale that everything is wonderful all the time at Caribbean school libraries. In fact, they are hit by plenty of challenges: fire, flood, tropical storms and hurricanes (Hurricane Maria, the Category 5 storm that tore through Dominica in Sept 2017, comes to mind), leaking roofs and windows, staff layoffs, and—most insidious of all—termites. Over the past few years, termites have been chewing their way through the wooden bookshelves—and the books—of the formerly-happy library at Laborie RC Boys Primary School. A termite infestation impacts a school library in all manner of ways: kids stop visiting the library, funds need to be somehow raised for a carpenter and replacement shelves, and morale takes a hit.

This school, nestled in the picture-postcard village of Laborie, on the sleepy southwest coast of St. Lucia, has not only claimed victory over the termites (new shelves of treated wood), but they have recovered their lost mojo. “The library space has been reorganized and a Library Team has been formed that includes a Grade 5 teacher, the reading teacher, U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Catherine Phillips, and a committed parent volunteer, Liza Fletcher,” reports Hands Literacy Link Sheila Serville. “Before their hard work in restarting the library, termites had destroyed a lot of the books and shelving, and the library was dirty and in desperate need of attention. In addition to cleaning and organizing, the Library Team reworked the checkout system, organized the book collection by genre, and decorated the space with a new invigorating theme.

“The ‘library rescue’ was successful. Students use the library effectively during their break periods. Reading Month is very busy at the school—the Book Worm activity and Fathers Reading to Students are among the highlights. Following that, it was Hats Off to Reading day at the school—another chance to celebrate books, reading, and the school library.” Going forward, members of the community are lending a lot of support and time to the school’s library and literacy activities. Take that, termites!

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