History of the University of Guyana 1984-1985

History This Week
By Arlene Munro
Stabroek News
November 4, 2005

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Due to the unavailability of annual reports for the academic year 1984-1985, this paper will focus only on the history of the Faculty of Agriculture and the University of Guyana Library during that period.

The Faculty of Agriculture was established in 1976-77. During the academic year 1984-85 its syllabus was updated, and the courses were restructured from a period of 10 weeks to a duration of 15 weeks. Two new courses were added: English 102 (Technical English) and CST 101 (Caribbean Studies). Students no longer had to be attached to the Guyana School of Agriculture while studying at the University.

This academic year was a difficult one for staffing. The faculty recruited part-time teachers. Consequently, the students performed poorly at the practicals. The faculty received the following members of staff during the year: John Browman, E.A. Hubbard, Agricul- tural Scientist, and Dr. K. Wignarajah, Crop Physiolo-gist. O.P. Homenauth re-turned from studies at the Mississippi State University.

The faculty worked under depressing conditions in borrowed classrooms, laboratory facilities and offices housing the Dean and staff. The Dean's Office lacked a telephone facility.

Though faced with these difficulties, the faculty attempted to develop the students' demonstration farm, commercial farm, the orchard and nursery, and livestock and nursery farm.

The University of Guyana Library continued to function in spite of financial constraints. Frederick Marsh, Senior Conservation Officer of the India Office Library, came to the University Library to serve as a Consultant in conservation. He was sponsored by UNESCO and served for two weeks. He worked on a plan for the establishment of a conservation laboratory in the library.

Mignon Adams of State University, New York, sponsored by the United States Information Agency, came to work as a consultant to the Library from November 15 to December 15, 1984. She conducted seminars for senior staff on user education and advised on the feasibility of setting up a credit course in user education at the university.

Owing to the lack of finance the University Library was unable to establish a library for the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education in Georgetown. Furthermore, the Library's physical body deteriorated during the year due partly to termite infestation. This led to leaks in the rainy season and damaged tiles in the new extension. The University was unable to provide the funding needed.

During the year the Maintenance Department neglected to properly take care of litter, repair of lights and toilets. This affected the smooth running of the university. The air-conditioners in the new building did not function; xeroxing and microfilm reading was impossible due to missing circuit breakers. Transportation for night workers was not always provided and therefore the Library paid a lot of money in remunerating taxi services.

The University Library did not receive UNESCO cou-pons or foreign exchange during the year. Therefore, the Library was unable to pay its overseas debt. Fifty thousand dollars were allocated by the Library for the purchase of books from local stores. However, the bookstores did not have many new publications. This lack of new publications in the Library made it difficult for the Library to support full degree programmes. The Library tried to reduce electricity costs by using certain economy measures.

Due to financial austerity, the University administration decided to hold all recruitment of staff within a fixed limit.

Therefore, measures were taken to monitor staff efficiency. This was done through disciplinary measures, clarification of procedures, provision of limited incentives and an assessment of internal communication processes. A Library monthly bulletin for the staff of the Library was published. Staff productivity was low due to lateness, slackness, and absences.

There was a problem of staffing in relation to senior posts. All the heads of Department were acting in their positions. The University Librarian was on a year's sabbatical leave. During the year a Senior Library Assistant Training Programme was held. In addition, professional seminars for senior library staff were conducted.

Due to the constraints on recruitment, the University Library did not recommend full-time release for staff members to attend the University

The Library responded to various requests for training attachments from public agencies. Ms. Joy Duncan went to the National Insurance Scheme Library to assist them. Two staff members were sent to Linden to conduct a workshop on book repair for teachers. The Senior Library Staff were involved in several paid and unpaid consultancies in the information field.

The Acquisitions Department could not acquire important textbooks for teaching and research due to the economic crisis and the resultant shortage of foreign exchange. Some debts still had to be paid.

The Department received gifts from governments, private organisations, libraries and individuals in Guyana and overseas.

These gifts formed 95 per cent of the publications which were added to the library during the year. The British government gave an amount of 9,500 pounds and 153 books on appropriate technology. The Netherlands government and the United States Information Service donated scientific serials since subscriptions had not been renewed.

The Indian High Commission, the em-bassies of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture were also donors.

The Overseas Book Centre in Canada donated 153 books. T. Ellis, Lorna McPherson, Adrian Thompson, Winston Phillips, Winston McGowan, Hutton Archer and James Barrow donated books, serials, and conference papers to the library.

Bertel Theilgaard and Jennifer Roman served as Heads of the Cataloguing Department. The Depart-ment catalogued a backlog of uncatalogued books as well as those received as gifts.

The Department was unable to obtain stencils for the duplication of catalogue cards. Staff were redeployed to other departments of the Library where their skills were needed. The staff continued to train junior staff in the Library for promotional examinations and staff from other libraries. They continued to organise the integration of the library collection of the Institute of Development Studies with that of the main library. The United Nations Collection was monitored and developed by Lionel Persaud in the Cataloguing Department.

Yvonne Lancaster performed some of the duties of the Head of Readers' Services Division. This Division produced guides, holdings, lists and retrieval/dissemination tools. Use was made of the computer information research facilities through the British Library and through Mignon Adams, the consultant from the State University of New York. A fund was created in the United States for user education.

During this year Jennifer Roman was transferred from the Caribbean Research Library to another department and both University Librarian and Judith Allsopp were responsible for the Caribbean Research Library. Despite the paucity of foreign exchange for the purchase of publications, the Caribbean Research Library was able to acquire many books as gifts or through exchange programmes.

Some of the gifts were donations of watercolours from the Walter Roth Museum and books from Adrian Thompson and Daly-Hill. Due to the unavailability of minigraph stencils, cataloguing was hindered that year. The department was able to process its acquired material and to publish its accessions list.

The Academic staff of the Library participated in professional and other activities. For example, they participated in a Caribbean mission with IDRC in April 1985 and in a meeting of the Caribbean Technical Personnel in preparation for the Conference of Caribbean Ministers of Culture, Georgetown, August 1985. Joel Benjamin represented the Library.

Marilyn A. Cox attended a USIA-sponsored multi-regional project, 'American Libraries', in the USA, from 23rd June - 23rd July 1985. Yvonne Lancaster attended the Fourth Conference of Cuban Specialists in Library Science, Havana, Cuba, 6-7th June, 1985 as well as a workshop followed by the Second Meeting of the Caribbean Association for the Teaching of English held in Barbados on 20th July 1985.

Jennifer Roman attended the Sixteenth ACURIL Conference "Users of Information: the Critical Variable in the Caribbean Setting," San Juan, Puerto Rico, 12-17th May, 1985. Hazel Woolford attended a Conference on 'Resources and Development' sponsored by the Department of Geography, University of Guyana, on 5-6th March 1985.

Academic staff of the library presented papers at seminars and published articles in various journals. Among them were Judith Allsopp, Joel Benjamin, Yvonne Lancaster, Lionel Persaud, Soomwattie Singh, and Hazel Woolford. The United Nations Collection was monitored and developed by the Cataloguing Department.

Despite the lack of funding, shortages of books and foreign exchange and constraints on staff recruitment, the staff of the University Library and the Faculty of Agriculture continued to function and produce.

This was commendable and was a testimony to the fortitude, resourcefulness and creativity of the staff.