Gov’t signs on to CDB grant for UG library

From left are CDB President Dr. Warren Smith, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan and UG Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ivelaw Griffith. (Ministry of Finance photo)

Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan on Tuesday signed a Technical Assistance Grant with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for the infrastructural enhancement of the University of Guyana’s library.

On March 1st this year, the University of Guyana (UG) and the CDB had signed a separate agreement on the initiative.

A release from the Ministry of Finance yesterday said that other signatories to the agreement were President of the CDB Dr Warren Smith, and the Vice Chancellor of UG, Dr Ivelaw Griffith.

The US$149,985 ($31.4m)  grant was approved by the Board of Directors of the CDB at its Annual meeting held in March this year. It will finance a comprehensive assessment of, and prepare final designs and scost estimates for the construction of a modern, “gender-responsive, socially-inclusive and environmentally resilient facility”. This grant will also help to   tackle the adequacy and suitability of the current infrastructure. The new library will be sited on a plot of land west of the current library. The Government of Guyana and UG will contribute approximately US$26,000 towards the full realization of the project. Over the years, the release noted that UG has had difficulty accessing funds to maintain the present library, its other buildings and to build newer buildings to accommodate  its growing student population. Despite this, the release said that UG has made incremental changes to the library including the removal and disposal of asbestos from certain areas in 2009; the building of a fire escape in 2010; the renovation of the roof of the new wing of the library and the grilling of windows in the general reading room in 2012; the rewiring of the library in 2015 and the physical upgrade of the learning resource centre in 2017. However, the release said that the library still suffers from infrastructural challenges and weaknesses in staff capacity.

The infrastructural enhancement project which will start immediately will be executed by UG through the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Planning and International Engagement. A Project Steering Committee will have responsibility for the coordination and overall guidance of the project.

In March, when the UG/CDB agreement was clinched, UG  Librarian, Gwyneth George said the new building will have a layout which caters for both collaborative and independent spaces

She explained that in designing the building UG will focus on incorporating technology in such a way that both a space for learning and creating will be realized.

Spaces where people are free to sit where they wish and converse, special rooms and special equipment where students can prepare tutorials or design projects as wells as an Auditorium to teach librarians so that they can better assist student to access online learning material such as electronic books and journals are expected features of the new library.

George said that since a 1997 assessment found the current library to be lacking the department has included a request for a library upgrade in every annual report and she is excited to finally see work being done.

 Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Barbara Reynolds explained that the construction will be done in two phases with CDB’s grant being specifically earmarked for the first phase.

“While we have a conceptual layout we will have a team of civil and construction engineers do the highly detailed technical work. We will then have Drawing and Designs [at the end of seven months]. We anticipate that very soon you will see in the newspapers calls for expression of interest to provide these designs,” Reynolds explained.

CDB Director of Economics Justin Ram had said then that the Bank is aware of the constraints and deficiencies of the current library which prevent it from operating at an optimal level and is pleased to assist in addressing one of these primary constraints, poor infrastructure.

“Under this technical assistance grant a comprehensive assessment will be undertaken to determine the adequacy and suitability of the current infrastructure [and] final designs and cost estimates for construction of the new library will be prepared,” he said, noting that the CDB is “optimistic that this process will place the University further along the path to having new facilities that are environmentally resilient, socially inclusive and a place of study and lifelong learning for the men and women who attend this institution.”

Once completed the building will be “big enough” for the needs of the university community and have facilities for those members who have special needs.

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