Move library to Victoria Hall and expand services, says activist
A community activist has called for action to bolster the Bermuda National Library – including a move into a larger home.
Karl Outerbridge said the library should be moved into the vacant Victoria Hall in Hamilton, allowing it to expand its services and become closer to a community centre.
“When I was homeless and had no internet, I became highly dependant on the Bermuda Library, and since 2016 I have used it often enough that I got to know everyone and see how everyone uses it,” Mr Outerbridge said.
“As time has gone by, I came to the conclusion that the library is too small for what it should be capable of in a modern society.”
He said that many vulnerable Bermudians use the resources of the library to look for jobs, while students go to study, educators use the site for tutoring and tourists use the site to access the internet – when it is available.
“There was a period last year when it was out for about three months,” he said.
Mr Outerbridge argued that the vacant Victoria Hall would be an ideal location for a new library.
“I used to work inside that building so I understand what it is like inside, and that building could help library staff reach their goal of creating a modern library,” he said.
“Modern libraries today are community centres. Historically in Bermuda there has always been an ongoing talk about having a community centre, and Victoria Hall presents an opportunity to do that.”
Mr Outerbridge said that speaking to students, many said they would be eager to use such a facility because of its proximity to both Victoria Park and the Hamilton bus terminal.
“A lot of the students – nearly every last one of them – talk about friends who either don’t have internet at home or don’t have a safe place to study at home,” he said. “If that location was available, a bigger location, they could picture themselves and their friends using it.
“We have all seen how the city is flooded with schoolchildren when school lets out, and a lot of those kids are in town waiting until their parents finish work. That library being there would give them an opportunity to go, get extra tutoring, take an extra course, and maybe their parent will go across and join them or take a course themself.
“I’m not saying that suddenly everyone is going to be beating a path to the library, but it is making sure that the opportunity is there.”
He suggested that the existing library on Queen Street could be used to expand the Bermuda Historical Society Museum and as a wi-fi hotspot for visitors, given its location.
Mr Outerbridge said he had spoken to numerous organisation about the proposal and has received largely positive responses, although he acknowledged the change would carry a capital cost.
“It could turn out to be a hefty bill, but I think it is well worth it,” he said. “I have approached one of the auditing firms back in January, who liked the idea, to get a feasibility study done.”
Mr Outerbridge said the Government has pledged to ensure that everyone on the island has access to education, and bolstering the National Library would be a positive step towards that purpose.
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