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Friday, June 21, 2024


May 21, 2001 — Patrons of the Enid M. Baa Library arriving Monday found the doors locked, although the lights were on. Such will be the case for the next week, but when the doors reopen on May 29, the reasons for the closing should be readily evident — and welcome.
New shelving is being installed in the area that houses the Von Scholten Collection of Virgin Islands historic materials, and a spring cleaning the likes of which has not occurred in years is taking place in the adults' and children's areas. The cleaning — a weeding out of the stacks, actually, to remove outdated and damaged books — is to make room for new ones that are on order or have already arrived.
The new shelves are being installed in the Von Scholten Collection stacks "so we can put some Caribbean materials out that have been in boxes up to this point — tons and tons of materials," Simon Caines said.
Caines is coordinator for libraries in the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums within the Planning and Natural Resources Department. He said the improvements are being funded from a million-dollar appropriation by the Legislature in 1999 to upgrade the territory's libraries.
New books are only being ordered now, he said, because "the appropriation initially was to do physical plant things. It took some time to get the Legislature to approve 'expanding' by getting books."
But placing book orders and getting them filled in and of itself has been a slow and trying process, he said. After selecting materials and searching for vendors, "with the record that we've had, we had to convince them to accept requisitions again," he explained.
According to Caines, it made more sense to shut the whole Baa facility down for a week than to try to work around library users. "There are so many boxes, it's a small facility and it really would have been disruptive to patrons to be hauling boxes of books back and forth," he said. "Logistically, it was just easier to close the facility."
It is Caines' plan "to spread the money out over three years, a good bit of it going to physical plant upgrades, especially on St. Croix." Some recent expenditures have been for new and badly needed photocopy machines at various libraries.
Most of the new Baa library books already in hand are for the children's reading room. "We're getting some Caribbean children's materials, which I'm excited about," he said. "We're awaiting materials for the adult collection."
The Von Scholten Collection is housed in "closed stacks," meaning patrons cannot circulate among the shelves but must request materials that are then retrieved for them to review. At the walkway entrance to the stacks and at the far end of the innermost room, Caines said, new shelves have been added atop existing shelves and "at a wall to the back, there are new shelves floor to ceiling."
Still, he said, much of the collection will remain in boxes. "We've really outgrown the space," he said. "We're putting out what is most needed by people in their research."
Someday in the not too distant future, Caines hopes, the crowded conditions of the Baa library will be a part of its history, and St. Thomas will have a new state-of-the art facility in the Tutu Park Mall complex. Last month, in connection with their bid to have Economic Development Commission tax benefits extended, the mall developers submitted a proposal to erect such a facility across from Plaza Extra Supermarket.
The EDC has not acted yet on the proposal. Caines said he and Claudette Lewis of Planning and Natural Resources "attended one meeting with commission personnel and shared our desire to have this go forward."
The designated site is "on a knoll right above Plaza Extra. We love it," he said.
Eleven days after the Baa library reopens, at 6 p.m. on June 9, it will be the scene of a meeting of The Friends of the St. Thomas Libraries, formerly known as The Friends of the Enid M. Baa Library. The name change is significant: The meeting will serve to kick off a membership drive and promote the Tutu Park Mall library project. Efforts are under way to arrange presentations at the meeting by representatives of the architecture firms that designed the new Antilles School library and that submitted designs for a new public library initially proposed for a site in Estate Anna's Retreat.
Regular Baa library hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for government holidays. The Von Scholten Collection is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m. There is no professional librarian on staff at present, but personnel are knowledgeable and ready and willing to assist patrons.

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