Maples gives literacy a boost

Imagine a place where you can go to expand your mind, improve your reading skills, relax in leafy surrounds and immerse yourself in Cayman’s rich and distinctive culture. Such a place is exactly what the new extension to George Town library promises to be.

The Maples Extension project, which is now well under way, has been generously supported by the Maples Foundation. The foundation joined forces with the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & Culture – the ministry responsible for public libraries – to help realise the common vision of boosting literacy standards in Cayman by providing greatly enhanced public library services.

The Maples Foundation, which was established by Cayman law firm Maples and Calder, pledged a commitment of US$2.5 million towards the project, representing its largest to date.

The funds will be paid in installments over a number of years, with the first significant sum having already been handed to Education Minister Alden McLaughlin.

Andrew Reid, a Partner at Maples and Calder, said, ‘The George Town Library restoration and expansion project is of tremendous national importance. The original building is of utmost historical significance and the new Maples Wing will provide the community with a state-of-the-art library facility that is the hallmark of an advanced society.’

He continued, Government cannot always be expected to go it alone and private sector contributions play an increasingly important role in allowing such public facilities to flourish. We have been working closely with the Honourable Minister, the Ministry of Education and the Friends of the Library Committee over the past two years and the firm is proud to be associated with this most worthy and necessary project.’

Mr. McLaughlin commented on the significance of the new project to the local community. ‘We want to promote our libraries as invaluable repositories of information in the form of both the written word and access to other knowledge sources such as the internet.

‘The new library extension at George Town will provide a greatly enhanced user-experience and help promote a culture of life-long learning in the community, which we have long recognised as a crucial component of our approach to education in these islands.’

The scope of the project covers an extensive expansion programme, which will give users access to three stories of improved library services, including a dedicated children’s library and a multi-media centre.

The extension of nearly 12,000 square feet in area will be constructed on a 1.4 acre plot at the rear of the existing historic George Town Library across from Heroes Square.

The current library will be refurbished to the same high specifications as the extension and its distinct traditional Caymanian architectural features (such as the ship’s-hull like ceiling) will be emphasized to help preserve its cultural significance.

The existing building, which was completed in 1939, will serve as a reception area to the new extension and will be able to accommodate exhibitions of art, culture and history.

A covered walkway will link the existing library with the new one through a shaded courtyard with reading benches.

The new extension’s Caymanian architects, Sean Evans and Colin Lumsden of Public Works, explained that, ‘The new building will utilise a wide array of natural modern materials such as Caymanite rock. The generous use of glass will take advantage of the view of other historic landmarks in and around Heroes Square.’ They added, ‘The design will be simple, elegant, sleek and modern.’

Minister McLaughlin concluded, ‘The value derived from this additional support from our corporate community for the new library extension reaches far beyond the purchase of bricks and mortar; this contribution will do much to fuel the drive towards improving literacy in these islands by enhancing access to quality teaching and learning provisions for everyone.’