It was in the summer of 2006. To be more precise, it was June, 10th, as the oldest player at the FIFA World Cup became it’s greatest hero. Wikipedia mentions his heroic actions as follows:
He was instrumental in securing a 0-0 draw against the heavily favoured Sweden, making several saves, even with his team down to ten men for almost the entire second half.
That’s pure understatement! We are talking of Shaka Hislop, who should have been nominated as World’s Best Goalkeeper (instead of Gianluigi Buffon, who didn’t have to save as much in the whole tournament as Hislop did in three games), the goalkeeper of the soccer team of Trinidad & Tobago. Coming from soccer to library blogs, but staying in T&T, we want to introduce to you Jennifer Papin-Ramcharan, our next LibWorld guest author. She’s working as an Engineering Librarian on the St. Augustine Campus at the University of the West Indies. Trinidad and Tobago.
Blogging and the Biblioblogosphere in Trinidad and Tobago
Blogging in Trinidad and Tobago is very much alive, at least for the relatively small sector of the society that has access to a computer and the Internet. It is not yet “institutionalized”, as those formal organizations, businesses or libraries that use blogs can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Thus if I were to write only about the biblioblogosphere (library and librarians’ blogs) in Trinidad and Tobago, this would be an extremely short article. In a word, the biblioblogosphere in Trinidad and Tobago is very much in its infancy, really more at conception. What is positive is that there is awareness of the possibilities and potential of blogging for librarians and libraries in Trinidad and Tobago and so one expects participation in the biblioblogosphere to increase.
Trinidad and Tobago Background
Trinidad and Tobago is the southernmost in the chain of Caribbean islands and is located very close to Venezuela. The twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago were colonized by the British in the 19th century but achieved independence in 1962. With a population of just about 1.3 million people, both islands cover an area of 5,128 sq km (1,981 sq mi).
In 2003, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 98.6 % (http://www.paho.org/English/DD/AIS/cp_780.htm). According to the World Bank Development Indicators 2006, (http://devdata.worldbank.org/wdi2006/contents/Table1_1.htm), the Gross National Income (GNI) per capital of $8730 is relatively high due mainly to petroleum and natural gas production and processing. Trinidad and Tobago is therefore ranked fairly high as an upper middle income country (http://www.finfacts.ie/biz10/globalworldincomepercapita.htm). Yet like all developing countries, it faces challenges in translating its wealth into development. Modern, Information Communication Technologies (ICT) diffusion, particularly computer ownership and Internet access, still can be improved considerably.
The Trinidad and Tobago E-Readiness Assessment report which was published in 2003 indicates that:
- Less than 10% of the population uses the Internet, and those who do typically use it for e-mail or entertainment (p.37).
- Only 16% of people own personal computers (p.35).
- About 3% of the population accesses the Internet through the public library system, and about 5% from schools/colleges/universities.
- There are about 121 computers in the new National Library in Port of Spain with Internet access for use by the public. Internet access is also provided at about 25 other library branches.
- An estimated 75% of the rural population does not have Internet access because most people there live more than fifteen minutes away from currently available access centres.
- The use of ICT in the workplace is also fairly limited. Although virtually all businesses have computers and access to the Internet via telephone dial-up, a significant number of employees share computers and only a few have personal e-mail addresses for use in the work environment (p.36).
- 0-87% of companies have Internet access
- 3,000 ICT professionals exist in the economy (p.38)
At the same time, Trinidad and Tobago has:
- A good telephone infrastructure, with reasonably good availability, speed and quality.
- Dial-up Internet and broad band access is fairly reliable, and accessible, though expensive.
- A strong educational system that has created an informed communicative population that is prepared and eager to learn.
- Some work has started in introducing ICT to schools (p.54)
Generally, Trinidad and Tobago is well known for its success in football (soccer), cricket (producing world renowned Cricketer Brian Lara) and for its Carnival and Steelpan. Its people are also well-known for being great talkers – liking the excitement of discourse and debate more than anything else. It should therefore not be surprising that there are three daily newspapers and several weekly newspapers as well and well over 22 radio stations and nine local television stations (http://www.whoswhotnt.com/industry.asp?iid=10). Talk radio and call in programmes discussing societal issues and politics are very popular. It is not surprising that the online or Internet discourse is somewhat representative of these interests (e.g. http://caribbeancricket.com/weblog/; http://trinidadtobago.worldcupblog.org/; http://saucytrini.blogspot.com/)
Blogging in Trinidad and Tobago
Although the Internet penetration rate in Trinidad and Tobago is relatively low, there is a fairly well-developed group of Internet users. For example, the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society has been in existence since 1997 when publicly accessible Internet in Trinidad was only two years old (http://www.ttcsweb.org/about.htm). The TTCS is well-known and cited worldwide for making available a compilation CD of Free/Open Source Software (TTCS OSSWIN CD) for the Windows platform. Interestingly, the TTCS also hosts a blog at http://ttcs.wordpress.com/.
Taran Rampersad, a computer consultant, software developer, educator and now self-described Second Life Consultant (Nobody Fugazi at http://www.your2ndplace.com/node/510) stated emphatically in a 2004 post that there are indeed blogs in Trinidad and Tobago and lists some of his favorites (http://www.knowprose.com/node/142).
More recently, Karel McIntosh of the Caribbean Public Relations blog has set up a Facebook group for Caribbean bloggers (Caribbean Bloggers Massive). There is even a Caribbean Bloggers net ring at http://cariblogrs.fyrfli.net/.
Some well known blogs with location identified as Trinidad and Tobago are:
Trinidad and Tobago News: http://www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/blog/
The Freedom Chambers: http://www.anandramlogan.com/
The Manicou Report: http://www.themanicoureport.com/
Trinidad Junction: http://trinidadjunction.wordpress.com/
Caribbean Beat blog: http://caribbean-beat.blogspot.com/
Caribbean Free Radio: http://www.caribbeanfreeradio.com/blog/
The Bookman: http://thebookmann.blogspot.com/
Antilles : Weblog of The Caribbean Review of Books: http://antilles.blogspot.com/
Jeremy Taylor: http://jeremy-taylor.blogspot.com/
This is a Trinidad ting: http://jknine3.blogspot.com/
Lifespan of a Chennette: http://chennette.wordpress.com/
The Society of Children’s Book: http://scbwicaribbean-south.blogspot.com/
Writers & Illustrators
Nicholas Laughlin a local writer, editor and active blogger talks about blogging in Trinidad and Tobago in a 2003 interview at http://nicholaslaughlin.blogspot.com/2005/10/now-we-are-three-its-three-years-today.html. There he describes his early motivation to make a Caribbean blog and his surprise at the extremely small number of Trinidadian or Caribbean visitors to the blog. His opinion about blogs in Trinidad and Tobago is worthy of noting here:
“There’s no mass audience here for Caribbean-interest blogs, I think, & the big “international” blogs are so deeply concerned with US politics that they aren’t of much interest to most of us Trini web-surfers. The global-Internet-geek culture which seems to fuel the blogosphere hasn’t achieved critical mass here yet. (And few of us have broadband.) But I wonder if it isn’t just that the right kind of Trini blog hasn’t been started yet – a blog with lots of gossip & politics & bacchanal, updated tirelessly! Perhaps an energetic enough Trini blogger could make it happen – & one popular blog might create enough of an audience to feed many smaller, more specialised ones.”
Not much has changed since 2003 when his interview was given.
Following the worldwide popular use of such social networking services as Myspace and FaceBook, some sectors of the population of Trinidad and Tobago have indeed jumped on this bandwagon. Many Trinidadians who live outside of the country also have authored blogs about things Caribbean. Thus, there are indeed several active blogs present in the Trinidad and Tobago blogosphere, but these are outnumbered by many attempted and abandoned blogs.
Some blogs of Trinidad and Tobago are listed at http://www.search.co.tt/trinidad/blogs/. A search of Blogger indicates that there are over 1400 blogs from users from Trinidad and Tobago. This just gives an idea of the number of blogs since there will be several other blogs on other platforms like WordPress, Movable Type, Typepad. A cursory examination of the profiles of bloggers of Trinidad and Tobago in Blogger indicates that it is populated in the main by those in their teens to early thirties. This is confirmed by Web developer Nigel Mahabir in an article on blogs in Trinidad and Tobago by Kayode James in the daily newspaper, the Trinidad Guardian.
Indeed, the blog Allyuh.com discusses the (to some disappointing) content of most Trinidad and Tobago blogs at http://www.allyuh.com/blog/2007/04/10/topical-trini-bloggers/. An attempt is made to give reasons for the lack of blogs dealing with societal issues like crime etc.
“Blogging as a medium inherently allows one to discuss what interests them personally and not based on any agenda or specific topics. We find a lot of local blogs to be more “micro-blogs” using it as a conversational tools or diary where the authors are keeping everyone updated as to their specific details or rants. We have not moved to “macro-blogging” where we discuss topics that may affect us on a larger scale.”
There has also been some limited use of blogs by teachers (as a course website) and by students either as a class project or as an outcome of class work. These are some examples:
The University of the West Indies (UWI), Communication Studies Association: http://thecsareport.blogspot.com/
Technology in Education (UWI):http://uwiclass.blogspot.com/
IT Fundamentals (course at UWI): http://itfundamentals1400.blogspot.com/
Introduction to Information Technology: http://permanandmohan.blogspot.com/
(course at the UWI)
Diploma in Educational Technology (UWI): http://uwiedtech.blogspot.com/
From looking at the profiles in Blogger one can also recognize blogs from several local journalists, artists, writers and other media people. In Trinidad and Tobago, several consultants and independent professionals and entrepreneurs also see blogging as useful for communication and marketing purposes. A few activists, community and student groups and other non-governmental organizations also make use of this medium for communication.
Schools Can be Joyful Places: http://ajoyfulplace.blogspot.com/ (educational consultant)
Andre Baptiste Blog: http://andreebaptiste.blogspot.com/ (sports journalist)
TT Citizens Against Noise: http://trinbagocan.blogspot.com/
Rights Action Group T&T: http://rightsactiongroup.blogspot.com/
Trinidad and Tobago Medical Students Association: http://mssc.uwi.tt/ttmsa/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=0&Itemid=9
One can conclude that the Trinidad and Tobago blogosphere is typical of those in other countries except for the absence of institutions or formal organizations. From my own knowledge and by careful searching, I was unable to discern only one or two libraries, schools or major businesses with blogs. For example, the UWI Graduate School of Business has a blog to communicate with its user community. A corporate entity on Trinidad and Tobago, Guardian Holdings Limited, also recently set up a blog for a charity event.
Additionally, the individuals with blogs, probably represent the small relatively “elite” sector of society that has access to the Internet. Indeed, in a recent post (September 03, 2007) entitled “Devil’s advocacy, with a dash of optimism” at http://www.caribbeanfreeradio.com/blog/, concerns are expressed about the lack of representative ness of the blogger community in Trinidad and Tobago,
“What I worry about is whether the online community, with ready access to computers and the Internet, are an accurate representation of the general population. What about the political opinions of those on the other side of the digital divide? And it may be that the Internet is just the latest forum for Trinis to do what they do best, talk. How much this translates into action is another question. Like a friend of mine, wary of all the online talk that has been taking place, recently wrote: “While we, ‘the future’, sit and occupy our time amusing ourselves with all these…discussions, the true leaders in the real world are doing as they please.” (http://www.caribbeanfreeradio.com/blog/2007/09/03/devils-advocacy-with-a-dash-of-optimism/)
On the other hand some believe that blogging can challenge “the elitism that pervades the Caribbean and is a great experiment in the democratization of data”, and suggest that, by making national boundaries and geographical barriers irrelevant, blogging could serve as a means of fostering a sense of transnational Caribbean identity (From Jamaican blogger Geoffrey Philp in a 2006 post at http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/2006/05/liming-in-cyberspace.html).
The potential for greater use of blogs by libraries, schools and organizations for what many may consider a “higher purpose” is not lost on some in the society. For example, at the 31st Annual Caribbean Studies Association conference in Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 there was a panel presentation and discussion on Caribbean blogging and other participatory web media called inspiringly “Global Voices Caribbean Accents”. A report of the panel contributions can be viewed at http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2006/06/06/global-voices-caribbean-accents-report-on-caribbean-blogging-roundtable/. This panel discussion included a virtual presentation by Alice E. Backer entitled “4 Reasons Caribbean Scholars Could Benefit from Blogging”.
A librarian at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago (Portia Bowen-Chang) also wrote an article about the benefits of blogging in the March 2006 newsletter of the local Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago called BIBLIO (http://www.latt.org.tt/latt/uploads/biblio-03-2006.pdf , p.6). This newsletter is widely disseminated to librarians in Trinidad and Tobago. More recently, Jessamyn West did a presentation at a regional conference of librarians in Puerto Rico on Web 2.O and blogs.
Libraries in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago has always had a public library presence. Indeed since 1851 the first public library was set up in the capital city Port of Spain and as early as 1919, the Carnegie Free Library was established in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago.
The public library system has been rejuvenated recently with the creation of the National Library and Information System (NALIS) and a new national library building in Port of Spain. NALIS has an impressive web and physical presence (http://library2.nalis.gov.tt/). There are, as well, several libraries in government departments, in companies and in the education sector. Not all of these have a web presence. For example a small listing of these can be seen at http://lists.webjunction.org/libweb/CSA_Trinidad_and_Tobago.html and at http://library2.nalis.gov.tt/.
Furthermore, the Main and Medical Sciences Libraries of the University of the West Indies campus located at St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago have always had a very good online presence (http://www.mainlib.uwi.tt/; http://www.mainlib.uwi.tt/msl/). The University of the Southern Caribbean based in Trinidad also has a web presence at http://usc.edu.tt/ with its library at http://usc.edu.tt/library/.
There are several other tertiary educational institutions with libraries but many do not have an online presence e.g. COSTATT; School of Accounting and Management; School of Business & Computer Science (SBCS). The new University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) has an online presence (http://www.utt.edu.tt/) and a link to its library but the link appears to be that for its intranet. Thus UTT’s library has no online presence at this time.
In terms of libraries’ presence online, noteworthy is that of the UN/ECLAC’s Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean in Port of Spain’s site at http://www.eclacpos.org/KMC/default.asp where a very informative Caribbean Digital Library is hosted. The United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean is also based in Trinidad and Tobago and its library has a presence online.
There is also a very active local association of librarians, the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) with a website. Communication of these libraries and associations with their community or user groups has been generally via email notices, e- and print newsletters. There is also a very active regional association of libraries and librarians with an excellent online presence, the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries in the Caribbean (ACURIL), at http://acuril.uprrp.edu/. ACURIL generally communicates with its members with an email newsletter called Cybernotes. Google or Yahoo groups have also sometimes been used for communication between librarians and their community (e.g. the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries).
Blogging by Librarians/Libraries
LIBDEX lists library weblogs worldwide at http://www.libdex.com/weblogs.html#ag . There, the only library/librarian blog from the region, the Caribbean, is from Antigua. None are listed for Trinidad and Tobago.
Gerada Holder’s recent blog (August 21st. 2007) post describes the situation well as regards blogging and libraries and librarians in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Generally Trinidad libraries and librarians are all for getting the work done is the shortest period of time, with max amount of satisfaction for the user. That said I do not think that we actively cultivate user-centered change, reduced institutional boundaries, and a heightened awareness of social software and related technologies. We mostly do not have the resources, or the time”. (http://otherlibrarian.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/we-asked-for-20-libraries-and-we-got-20-librarians/)
The use of blogs in libraries and by librarians worldwide is well-documented. Although the use of blogs as an effective communication and marketing tool for libraries is well known (Goodfellow and Graham, 2007 ; Vogel and Goans, 2005; Reichardt and Harder, 2005), the use of blogs by libraries and librarians in Trinidad and Tobago is relatively insignificant. Some libraries have used blogs for internal communication, e.g. the Systems Unit of the University of the West Indies Campus Libraries in Trinidad and Tobago, recently set up a blog to communicate with the staff of the library about issues relating to the new Aleph 500 integrated library system. This blog is available only on the library’s intranet and so is not visible on the Web. It is difficult to say how many other internal library blogs like this exist in Trinidad and Tobago.
Also, the NextGen librarian set up a blog (called NALIS Teen Lime). This has not been updated recently and appeared to be created for a programme of activities for a group of public library users. This author has started experimenting with blogs (The Caribbean Librarian). There is also the newly created Caribbean Connector which was:
“Created to ‘connect’ Caribbean Librarians; a Clearinghouse which delivers the information you need directly to your desktops; a creative commons to record your thoughts.”
Thus blogging in libraries and librarians is still very much in its infancy. It is expected that the number of biblioblogs in Trinidad and Tobago will increase with time because of the obvious benefits and ease of creation/implementation of these. Reasons for the lack of activity in blogging by libraries can include, as mentioned previously, a lack of time and resources. It may also be that since such a small portion of the library community/users in Trinidad and Tobago have access to the Internet, librarians and libraries have realized that (for now) blogging initiatives are not likely to be effective for communication and marketing.
The most active librarian blog in the region (the Caribbean) appears to be the LibInfoSpace blog by J. K. Vijayakumar Assistant Director of Library Services at the American University of Antigua. Though not a Caribbean blog in terms of its content, it is authored by someone based in the Caribbean.
Towards the Future
The future is not all doom and gloom in terms of blogging in Trinidad and Tobago. We are indeed on the wrong side of the digital divide. This does not mean that blogging, social networking etc. does not exist or will never develop, it simply means that there is a delay in the widespread adoption of many modern ICT associated tools and services like these. But we are well on the way to getting there. In Trinidad and Tobago,
- the government is rapidly moving to implement e-government/e-services (http://ttconnect.gov.tt/Egov/Portal/),
- highly skilled ICT personnel exist,
- the younger generation of “digital natives” are using every available Web 2.0 service/tool,
- de-regulation of the telecommunications sector should result in less expensive Internet access,
- librarians and others have been using and exploring open source software (http://www.fastforward.tt/files/cms/Public%20Consultation%20OSS%20in%20NICT%2020061020.pdf ; the UWI is using open source Moodle as its preferred course management software)
- librarians and others have been creating open access journals (http://www.mainlib.uwi.tt/Clj/call4papers.htm; http://www.sta.uwi.edu/crgs/)
- librarians have been participating in subject archives (http://eprints.rclis.org/view/countries/TT-.html) and setting up institutional repositories (Dspace at UWI Campus Libraries, St. Augustine).
- digitization initiatives are flowing including plans for a collaborative Caribbean Digital Library (http://library2.nalis.gov.tt/Default.aspx?tabid=267; http://library2.nalis.gov.tt/Portals/0/cdl_NALIS_CKangalee_PGreene_110707.pdf)
With librarians and others willing to explore new and creative ways of reaching people, the use of blogs and other new communication, interaction and dissemination tools will only increase.
Goodfellow, T., & Graham, S. (2006). The Blog as a High-impact Institutional Communication Tool. Retrieved August 27, 2007 from http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/dspace/handle/2123/1609
Reichardt, R., & Harder, G. (2005). Weblogs: Their Use and Application in Science and Technology Libraries. Science & Technology Libraries, 25 (3/5), 105-116.
Vogel, T., & Goans, D. (2005). Delivering The News With Blogs: The Georgia State University Library Experience. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 10(1), 5-27.