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Libraries, Literacy and Learning; Essays in Honour of The Hon. Joyce Lilieth Robinson. Edited by K.E. Ingram. [Kingston]: Jamaica Library Association, . xii, 223 p., ISBN 976–8092–92–0. Unpriced.
Few academics receive festschriften, and the number who really merit a series of essays in honor of their scholarly work is probably fewer than the number published. Still fewer practitioners are honored by such volumes, though it may be argued that proportionately more deserve such recognition.
In the years since World War II, several founding figures of library service have emerged in developing nations. These individuals possess a stature and vision that casts them in the same heroic mold as some nineteenth century giants in the development of library service: leaders such as Dewey, Cutter, DeLisle, or Panizzi. I have been lucky to know some of these latter–day heroes personally: individuals such as Alma Jordan of Trinidad, Hedwig Anuar of Singapore, and Joyce Robinson of Jamaica.
At the library school at the Northwestern Polytechnic (now the University of North London) where I was a student in the late 1950s, people spoke of Joyce Robinson in the reverential tones usually reserved for charismatic preachers and cult figures. She studied at Polytechnic after receiving a scholarship in 1954 for the Fellowship of the Library Association, and deeply impressed the staff and her fellow students. Somebody once described her to me as “the Billy Graham of librarianship.” When I moved to Jamaica a few years later, I could understand the analogy, in view of the success of the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) under her direction, and the fact that she and her staff had managed to make good library service a priority among politicians. Indeed, one started to wonder whether it would not be more appropriate to describe Billy Graham as “the Joyce Robinson of Religion”!
Appointed as director of the JLS in 1957, Robinson was seconded to the Jamaica National Library Board (later JAMAL) as its Executive Director in 1973, and served as general manager of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation in 1981. Her full–time career came to a close in 1991 after having directed the Human Employment and Resource Training Trust for nine years. How appropriate that the Jamaica Library Association should honor Joyce Robinson with a volume of 13 essays on “Libraries, Literacy and Learning,” the three Ls that have been a primary focus in her life. That the volume has been edited by that fine scholar, Kenneth Ingram, formerly librarian of the University of the West Indies, ensures the high technical quality of the essays, though a delay in publication from 1991 (when most of the essays were originally prepared) to 1994 indicates that his task was not altogether straightforward. Many of the contributors — Ingram himself, Alma Jordan, U.K. representatives Ken Harrison and Jean Plaister, and Joyce’s former lieutenants and colleagues Hazel Bennett, Leila Thomas, and Hector Wynter — tie their essays to Robinson’s role in the history of library service in Jamaica.
Although those who knew Joyce Robinson may feel the volume does not completely convey the excitement of working in Jamaican librarianship when she was developing the library service, there is enough in Libraries, Literacy andLearning to illustrate what a remarkable woman she is, and her importance to Caribbean librarianship.
Roderick Cave is Professor and Head of the Division of Information Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His M.A. and Ph.D. are from Loughborough University. His earlier positions were at the University of the West Indies, Ahmadu Bello University, Loughborough University (Lecturer), and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand (Foundation Professor). He also had a UNESCO appointment in Jamaica. Dr. Cave’s books include The Private Press (1971), Rare Book Librarianship (1976), and Printing and the Book Trade in the West Indies (1987). His articles have appeared in journals in the U.S., U.K., Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the West Indies.
© 1995 Roderick Cave.
Cave, Roderick, “Review of Libraries, Literacy and Learning; Essays in Honour of The Hon. Joyce Lilieth Robinson, edited by K.E. Ingram,” Third World Libraries, Volume 6, Number 1 (Fall 1995).