Statement from the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago re: Carnegie Free Library
Following concerns arising from the further deterioration of the Carnegie Free Library in San Fernando last week, The National Trust met with His Worship the Mayor of San Fernando Junia Regrello and Ms Hazel Hazzard Samuda, Director of the Carnegie Free Library, to collaborate on a way forward to safeguard this historically important structure.
“The story behind the establishment of this institution began in May 1909, when the then Mayor of San Fernando, J.D. Hobson, approached Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-born American philanthropist, for aid in establishing a library. Two years later, on July 15, 1911, Carnegie gave the Borough Council £2,500 for the purpose of building the free public library.” (Source – National Trust Carnegie Free Library Dossier)
Given that this building is under the control of the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) and is located within the jurisdiction of the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC), we are grateful to His Worship and Ms Sumuda for facilitating a productive meeting on this priority issue. In 2019, The National Trust formally initiated the listing process for the legal protection of the Carnegie Free Library pursuant to the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago Act Chap. 40:53. For this purpose the Trust compiled research and other materials on the Carnegie Free Library which include recommendations for the restoration of the building and other plans which will be discussed at a follow up meeting with NALIS and the SFCC.
The Carnegie Free Library has been an iconic landmark in the southern city since it opened its doors in 1919, providing access to books and a world of knowledge particularly to under-served sectors of society who prior to its inauguration had been largely excluded from such resources.
“Poverty in Trinidad during this climactic period of 1919 caused an outcry for equality through the nation. The role poverty played in the lives of citizens who resided in lower income communities and rural areas of the island was major. Poverty limited accessibility to basic necessities for many, such as an education, standard living conditions, reading materials etc. The intervention of the Carnegie Corporation, provided an opportunity for development of the human resource in these lower income communities. Reading and accessing books are underrated abilities. The implementation of the Carnegie Free Library, was a pivotal step for the Country as thousands of persons were able to improve their skills, and educate themselves in a time of neglect due to certain colonial forces.” (Source – National Trust Carnegie Free Library Dossier)
The National Trust is encouraged by the outpouring of concern from the citizens of San Fernando, the Trust membership, and the national community in support of the protection of the Carnegie Free Library. We look forward to continued collaboration with NALIS, the San Fernando City Corporation and other interest groups committed to safeguarding this heritage asset for future generations.
About the National Trust
The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago was established by the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago Act, Chap. 40:53with a mandate that includes:
- Identifying built and natural properties and sites of interest;
- Formally listing properties and sites important to our national heritage to prevent destruction and to ensure discussion prior to agreed modification;
- Making provision for access to and enjoyment of properties of interest by the public;
- Encouraging research and acquiring records of properties of interest and historical artefacts; and
- Conducting education and awareness campaigns to ensure general acceptance of the rich and diverse heritage of Trinidad and Tobago.
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