The Jamaica Library Service came into being on May 5, 1948 when the first Director Mr. A.S.A. Bryant began work to put into operation A Library Plan for Jamaica which had been prepared in 1945 and which had received government approval in 1946. The establishment of the JLS was largely the result of rising community demand for free librarie;the influence and support of the Institute of Jamaica and financial support from the Government of Jamaica and the British Council.
The previously independent public libraries operating in the parishes of Manchester (1938), St. Elizabeth (1944), St. James (1944), Westmoreland (1946), St. Ann (1947) became the foundation libraries of the new organization. The formation of the JLS and its early years are well documented in the publication Jamaica Library Service 21 years of progress in pictures 1948 – 1969.
An agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information the JLS comprises two networks, the Public Library Network (PLN) and the School Library Network (SLN). PLN consists of 118 physical libraries with 1,241 public access computers which were used 1.8 million times in the 2017/2018 operational year. In that same year 2.6 million visits were made to the physical libraries while there were 435,543 requests to use the free WiFi service offered. Services to school libraries began in 1952 and today SLN serves 899 government school libraries –from infant to high school.
Over the seventy years of its existence one thing has remained constant about the JLS: it is a free service enabling access to information and knowledge to support personal, community and national development.
The theme for this 70th anniversary is Celebrating the Journey…Shaping the Future. A symposium on Caribbean Children’s and Young Adult Literature and a Long Service Awards Dinner are among the special events planned to mark this milestone.