Barbados Law Library In Ruin Due To Water Damage: “Preventative Maintenance” An Unknown Concept To Successive Barbados Governments

“There are two types of people in the world: Those who change their engine oil regularly, and those who ignore maintenance until the engine is already headed for ruin. We Bajans are usually of the second type…”

Shouldn’t The Chief Law Librarian Be Fired For Failure To Preserve Irreplaceable Books & Documents?

Barbados Law BooksAccording to the Bajan news media “environmental problems” are responsible for ruining a “substantial” amount of the books and other documents in the law library of the Supreme Court.

Typical Barbados news story: “environmental problems” are responsible for this massive loss. God forbid we would ever hold a real person responsible for anything.

No, it wasn’t the people in charge of the law library who are responsible for failing to note the deterioration and protect the thousands of books and documents – many of them irreplaceable. No, it wasn’t Chief Justice who is responsible – even though according to his own statement in the Barbados Advocate he has known for at least four years of the deterioration and did nothing to stop it. No, it wasn’t former Attorneys General Mia Mottley or Dale Marshall who are responsible for this loss. It wasn’t 15 years of a BLP government that spent hundreds of millions on cricket and consulting payments while neglecting everything from schools, to police stations to the law library.

According to Attorney General Freundel Stuart, nobody in the current or former governments ever thought to train ANY of our law librarians in book preservation or about the dangers of dampness, mould and fungus to our almost 300 year-old law archives. It is like the whole problem just happened last week without any warning.

Books are damaged by water and dampness? Well, who could have known!

So you see? No person is responsible… it was “environmental problems”.

And the solution to the “environmental problems”?  The usual: borrow or beg for more money from the Inter-American Development Bank.

“Just put it on the tab, waiter… the next generation will pay for my spilled drinks.”

Court library compromised

read the full article at: The Barbados Advocate 6/23/2009

By Shawn Cumberbatch

ENVIRONMENTAL problems, including mould and fungus, have cost Barbados’ highest domestic court a “substantial” amount of its library material.

Chief Justice (CJ) Sir David Simmons disclosed yesterday that authorities were now looking to secure funding from the Inter-American Development Bank, as part of its Justice Improvement Programme with the island, to significantly restore the large volume of legal books and other important reading material housed in the 278-year-old Supreme Court library.

Both Sir David and Attorney-General Freundel Stuart voiced concern about the impact these environment-related issues could have, with Stuart saying most Caribbean governments had devoted larger budgets to libraries, but had not paid enough attention to training law librarians in book preservation.

The officials were speaking yesterday at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, during the official opening of the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries 24th Annual General Meeting and seminar.

The CJ noted that over the last few years Barbados had suffered the fate of most libraries, which “face the problem of contamination of the environment by mould, fungus and other deleterious substances”.

“We in Barbados have suffered particularly harshly in the last three or four years to the point where the library stock in the law library is in need of substantial replenishment. Fortunately, we have been able to put a project to the Justice Improvement Programme and with the blessing of the Inter-American Development Bank I trust that we shall secure the requisite funding to replenish quite a large part of the book stock in the library,” he said.

With this concern in mind, Sir David said judicial officials did not want to acquire the material they lost and “remain in the building where we have been ever since 1731”.

He therefore hoped that by the end of this year they would move into the new Halls of Justice facility “and the law library should be operational”.

The official also saw the need “for proper qualified staff in the law library to manage the book stock and to ensure that the environment in which we house books is also conducive to the longevity of the books”.


Additionally, he called for greater collaboration between the Office of the AG and the Supreme Court’s library.

“I hope…that in the near future some mechanism can be found where the library of the Office of the Attorney-General and the library of the Supreme Court and the users of those two libraries can have access, on an organised basis, to the various Websites that are there purveying legal materials. I think it’s absolutely crucial that especially the Bar has the ability to access these materials at reasonable rates,” he noted.

“In my opinion the development of a project that will achieve those objectives is not beyond us to develop in a consultative way among all of the relevant players and I hope that within the next year, before the next meeting of this association, we in Barbados are able to hammer out the present difficulties that do not promote the kind of coordinated approach that I feel is necessary.”

Stuart was concerned that lack of training in book preservation “means that sometimes we have difficulties not only in expanding and keeping our collections current, but in knowing how to preserve them from mould, dust and other environmental problems”.

“This is a deficiency in the training of our librarians, which must be made good. It is not all of them who must be trained in book preservation – one or two from within the Civil Service should suffice. These, along with archivists who have received specialised training should be available for consultation in the event that some libraries experience,” the AG added.


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8 responses to “Barbados Law Library In Ruin Due To Water Damage: “Preventative Maintenance” An Unknown Concept To Successive Barbados Governments

  1. reality check

    You are making a huge assumption BFP and that is that anyone has ever read these books.

    It seems as if the rules are made up as one goes and the books have deteriorated at the same pace as the Rule of Law.

  2. BFP

    Not a bad observation, reality check…

    The link between the deterioration of the law library and the deterioration of the rule of law might not be as tenuous as one might first imagine.

  3. Jukecheckedeyskirt

    Maintenance, accountability, transparency, backward approaches,fairness, proper execution of the law, favourtism, salary discrimination, supercession, victimization, etc are all neglected non issues were successive governments are concerned. Do not expect anything to change.

  4. Ivan Taylor

    You are so right
    Wet Books, Sick Buildings a Dilapidated hospital
    Prevention is Far better than cure

    Good thing the Private Sector does not operate like this

  5. Hants

    Can’t have everything.

    At least you get a New prison and Cricket stadium.

  6. Sargeant

    So Sir David knew for some time about the state of affairs and did nothing to inform his former cabinet colleagues about the Law Library? Nothing like sounding the alarm as you are exiting the building. I guess he knew what their attitude was towards libraries in general given their neglect of the Bridgetown Public Library. I looked at the building a few months ago and observed a small tree growing from the roof of the building.

    On another point perhaps there is a growing anathema towards books in recent times. I have it on good authority that some books on protocol were destroyed at The Ministry of Foreign Affairs some years ago. When asked why a senior official responded that “people could get information from the Internet”.

  7. livinginbarbados

    Why the surprise? Have you ever visited any of the court houses? Or should I say, some of the stables, such as at District B.

  8. reluctant nonbeliever

    Hardly a surprise indeed. The CJ (like the government) knows its people. What do a few mouldy old books matter in a country where the bulk of the population (to judge by the call-in programmes) only cares about cricket, crop-over and illegal immigration?

    Ok, ok. I’m in a sour and cynical mood tonight after reading the news about the continuing Graeme Hall environmental disaster. I guess I’m beginning to despair about the future of Barbados.