Volume 4 (2016)


For Sir Derek Walcott. Thank you for the inspiration!

When I first started this editorial, Derek Walcott was alive and I was working with the theme Small is Beautiful, Small is Powerful particularly as this issue has a strong connection to St. Lucia. Walcott's passing is a loss to all of the Caribbean and I want to take a paragraph or two of the editorial to reflect on his work and what this means for a Caribbean library journal. So permit me the space to write this editorial in 2 parts.

Part 1: Small is Beautiful, Small is Powerful

Beverley Hinds has taken on the challenge of writing the history of a library in St. Lucia, a nation some in the Caribbean would refer to as a “small island”, but this island is so powerful that it has produced two Nobel Laureates in Derek Walcott and Arthur Lewis. Hinds' effort is no small feat as she is one of a few Caribbean librarians working in the genre of library history. The Caribbean Library Journal welcomes this and all other efforts to write the region's history of librarianship.

The Castries fires which Hinds notes were challenges for the library construction and operation, are captured by John Robert Lee in his poem dedicated to Walcott. It reads in part

“When have I not walked, Walcott, by your fire-scorched love, through uptown lanes of old Castries, strolled the revolving corners of Chaussée, Coral, Broglie, Victoria?”

Lee, a St. Lucian librarian and writer shares this moving piece of his poetry with us. In this the first interview the CLJ has produced, Lee also speaks of his work as a librarian at the St. Lucia Folk Research Centre. This centre is a repository of and an outlet for St. Lucian heritage.

Ramtahal and Kumar examine how the Ramleela festival has been documented and archived in Trinidad. This effort to focus on one festival can be the start of a wider Caribbean discussion on how to document our various festivals for preservation and research, and how the information professionals can impact on this. Interestingly, Derek Walcott in his 1992, Nobel Laureate speech refers to the Ramleela festival in Trinidad and Tobago as he explores memory and identity in the Caribbean.

Small is powerful! Mendoza's paper uses one of the locations for the Open Campus, the smallest of the four University of the West Indies Campuses' as the site for her research. It is a campus which encompasses units and centres spread throughout many of the “smaller islands”. As Mendoza demonstrates by targeting a research topic to a subset, small can present an opportunity to impact a larger policy direction.

The St. Lucia theme continues as the cover of the journal is a photograph of the Castries Library which is adjacent to the Derek Walcott Square.

Part 2: Reflecting on Walcott

Here is an excerpt from Walcott's essay on “Culture and Mimicry”1

“Nothing will always be created in the West Indies, for quite long time, because what will come out of there is like nothing one has ever seen before (my emphasis). The ceremony which best exemplifies this attitude to history is the ritual of Carnival. This is a mass art form which came out of nothing, which emerged from the sanctions imposed on it… From the viewpoint of history, these forms [calypso, steelband] originated in imitation if you want, and ended in invention”

I have also studied Walcott's work and over the years, have come to appreciate his position which suggests that here in this region which has facilitated the crossing of so many cultures, we do not have to be anyone else but ourselves. We have the creative potential to birth things this world has never seen. We in the Caribbean just have to perform our festivals, and write our stories for ourselves first. Kevin Jared Hosein in a Facebook post of 17 March 2017 reflects on Walcott:

“Walcott was really the person who let every writer in the Caribbean know they didn't have to become anything else in order to be heard.”

Walcott further advocates a deep self-love and dedication for this region. It is a love which he believes will eventually make any product blossom into something magnificent as the carnival. What may appear to be at first imitation or mimicry on the surface is just the first stage in a process heading towards innovation.

When the Caribbean Library Journal was conceived, it was done with the understanding that the journal belonged to all librarians of the region and as such it was intended to provide a platform for us to share about our library communities, history, practices and concerns. In essence no library related issue is too small for CLJ's coverage. I would want to suggest that the CLJ is in the first phase of the creative process, what Walcott refers to as “imitation”. Even as to some extent we “imitate” what other peer review journals are doing, at the same time we are charting a new course for the region by experimenting with videos, art, small projects, and interviews. The journal is willing to go beyond the limits.

Off to a good start with four issues completed; the CLJ has proven that small can be powerful. However as the journal grows in strength, it can only do so through a commitment from the region's librarians to write, and to support the journal, as well as through a commitment from the parent institution, The University of the West Indies Campus libraries, to ensure that the journal continues to be a platform for this region's library issues and innovation. Let us move this unique Caribbean library journal into that next phase.

So, onwards to volume five!

1Citation for the full essay: Walcott, Derek. 1974. “Culture or Mimicry.” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, 16.1: 3- 13.