Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries Holds Annual Meeting

The Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries selected its board of directors, and brainstormed ideas and areas of concern for library services throughout the territory at its annual meeting on Friday, June 21, at the Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Library.

Arlene Pinney-Benjamin and Carmen Hamilton run June 21st annual meeting of the Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries.

Presiding Officer Carmen Hamilton conducted the meeting, which included input from Arlene Pinney-Benjamin, acting territorial director for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums. Also present were head librarian Symra Chinnery-Wilkinson and administrator Kim Blackett.

Public Libraries Seeking More Staff, Volunteers
Pinney-Benjamin acknowledged the public’s desire for more hours of library availability, with staffing a key factor. At this time there is only one head librarian taking care of the entire territory, with limited hours on St. John as staff are rotated between the Turnbull Regional Library and the Elaine Ione Sprauve Library. The library system is currently evaluating applications for Information Technology (IT) and librarian positions.

To Apply: Candidates may visit the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Personnel Career page at and use the filter for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources – St. Thomas and St. Croix — to view current postings. The public is urged to check periodically for updates. Concurrent to the recruitment of staff, other issues such as lighting, security and access are being addressed to ensure the safety of staff and patrons.

The St. Thomas Book Mobile has been placed back into service; the St. John Book Mobile awaits upgrades as well as staff for that island. On St. Croix, an experienced librarian recently departed and needs to be replaced, and the Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library remains shuttered for mold remediation. Facilities, security, lighting and other issues are being addressed concurrent to staff expansion in hopes that there will eventually be a transition to expanded hours.

Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Library on St. Thomas

The acting director also encouraged community members 18 years old and older to consider volunteering at the territory’s public libraries. The process begins with a review of background experience including a resume to ensure the best match to current needs. As many library services are driven by technology, digital skills are a plus. Library volunteers may be called upon to read to children, assist with book circulation, provide Public Computer Center help, and buffer staff shortages.

To become a library volunteer, visit the public library or call 773-5715 on St. Croix or 774-0630 on St. Thomas.

The Day Care Literacy Project, spearheaded by Carol Lotz-Felix, has just completed its 18th year. Volunteers take packets of five books to private day care classes and read to the children; they “lend” them for one week. They then return with another batch of books the next week. There are now over 600 books in a wonderful collection, with a variety of titles and subjects.

As the recovery progresses, more and more children are returning to the territory and are being enrolled in St. Thomas day care centers. As of September 2018, four centers were being served; by December 2018 that number increased to six; by February, volunteers were serving eight centers. Thanks go to this year’s volunteers: Debra Sims, Carol Cupolo, Diane Windisch, Brooke Seibert, Gita Rose, Sara Brin, Deja Foster and Carol Lotz-Felix as well as participating day care centers: Rosie’s and Sunshine Bear in Lindbergh, Better Bright on Main Street, Kids on Donkey Hill, Angels I , Angels II and Handy Spandy in Sugar Estate and New Testament in Tutu.

Three of this year’s volunteers will not be returning, and three additional centers have come back online, but there were not enough volunteers to serve them. The demand is great because the staff and the children all look forward to this “rotating lending library” each week. Volunteers visit a center for just one hour between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., each week.

Attendees were invited to participate in a Community Town Hall by posing questions and comments to the acting director and staff members, as well as by contributing to a written brainstorm document at the rear of the auditorium. From the suggestions, the Friends of the St. Thomas Public Library Board will draw up a plan of action and agenda to enlist public support and provide aid to the library.

Free books were also made available to everyone. Two copies of the second book written by local author Dr. Laverne Lake-Davis were given out in a special drawing at the end of the meeting. The new release, entitled “Where are my Children?!” was written in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, as Dr. Davis sought comfort from the frustration of being unable to contact family and friends back home. Recalling the lore and history she’d learned as a child, she imagined the storms as trails of grief, racing across the Middle Passage in search of souls lost.

Join the Library Friends Movement. The Friends’ Board of Directors are:
§ Bonnie Braga
§ Jessica Geller
§ Carmen Hamilton
§ Patricia Harkins-Pierre
§ Judy King-Edmeade
§ Melissa Petrich
§ Drew Russo
§ Kiese Sam
§ Kathy Schlesinger
§ Monique Simon
§ Barbara Young

The Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries would like everyone who want to see St. Thomas libraries well-funded, well-staffed and secured to download a membership application to join the Friends and sign up at, so they can be advised of upcoming activities and action plans.