16th Annual George Carlington Simmons Lecture Series
On October 22nd 2018 the conference room of the Hilton Hotel was the scene of the 16th Annual George Carlington Simmons Lecture Series. In attendance was the one who made the series a continual event, Professor (emeritus) George C. Simmons. The 97-year-old Simmons took to the podium to greet the listening audience.
A graduate of the class of 1945, Dr Simmons has for over two decades contributed to the knowledge base at the institution through a book collection in his name. Over the years, the collection has grown and boasts of over 6000 books on philosophy, Greek and English literature, English history and culture, psychology and the arts.
He boasted about the two institutions that impacted his life, Maracas and North Western. He said “Maracas taught me how to read and how to aim high, just how to aim high not low, not mediocre but to aim high. North Western gave me a certain confidence, a certain pride coupled with humility. These two institutions made me what I am and I praise Him(God) day and night that I am still around and that I still have a desire to serve, to serve humanity. I have no other ambition in life now at the age of 97, but to do something good and right and lasting. Still speaking firmly, he continued, “I want to leave a library, a new building in Maracas valley for the beauty of the soul.”
Dr Simmons, with his wit and humour, introduced the individuals seated on the platform to the attending patrons. However, his main task was to introduce the main speaker Dr.Sarah Pritchard, Dean of Libraries, Northwestern University. Dr Simmons was pleased to note that Dr Pritchard achieved a Phi, Beta, Kappa, which is the highest academic honour a student can receive at the university level.
Dr Pritchard’s lecture, titled “Libraries and the Persistence of Knowledge”, brought new insight and answered many questions shifting about the mind of her attentive listeners. She highlighted that libraries today are still important. “University administrators or the parents of our students, the person almost always says to me, Do we even need libraries anymore, isn’t everything on the internet? The short answer is yes and yes! That is, there is a lot on the Internet and yes we still need libraries because not everything is on the Internet, and even though it is, we need libraries and librarians to curate and evaluate information to help navigate and integrate the proliferation of pathways, to find information and customize information for many diverse needs in society.” She remarked.
She then gave a brief history as to why libraries were set up, stating that “Libraries were typically set up,I need to say this, not for the public good. Back in the original creation of libraries, they were set up by rulers, by governments, by wealthy elites, by major religious institutions. These were the people that controlled the society’s resources, policies and actions. With that role came a desire to control knowledge.” Dr. Pritchard continued to give a succinct history of libraries and their growth and value to society.
In her closing words, Dr.Prichard summed up her speech saying “Libraries will endure in whatever is the relevant format of a given time in history because libraries are about preserving and sharing the records of human culture making a path for the future.” After which, she thanked the audience.
Other noteworthy speakers were the President of The University of The Southern Caribbean
Dr Hillary Bowman, Ms Stacey-Ann Quintero (Librarian USC), Mr AJ. Jagelski (Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy to Trinidad and Tobago), Mr. Thomas Isaac (Lecturer, School of Social Sciences USC) Dr Vernon Andrews (Past President-1983-1990), Dr. Kern Tobias (Chairman, Board of Trustees USC) and Mrs. Petronetta Pierre- Robertson (Documentalist /Librarian, University of the West Indies).
The curtains have closed on the 16th Annual George Carlington Simmons Lecture Series and the patrons look forward to the next installment of this intriguing Series.