The Benjamin Laing Library’ In ‘grand Bahama’

BENJAMIN LAING Pelican Point Library’ in ‘Grand Bahama’


The seed for the East End Missile Base Library was planted in 1988 when Mrs. Carol McCutcheon moved to Freetown and began loaning residents books from her private collection. In 1989, when she began teaching at Freetown Primary School, Mrs. McCutcheon began purchasing children’s books, which were made available to students. When the ‘Let’s Read Bahamas’ program began, she initiated a bookmobile using her private car. Later, as Reading Coordinator for East End, she requested and received a van from the T-Com site to be used as a bookmobile.

While attending a reading class on ‘How to Teach Your Child to Read’ taught by Mrs. McCutcheon, Mr. Preston Cooper Jr. suggested the development of a library in Freetown. Reverend and Mrs. Cleveland Cooper met the idea with favour and a library was started in Freetown Lodge Hall. Books were donated from the Sir Charles Hayward Library.

When the Lodge Hall was needed for other purposes, the books were moved to the Missile Base. During this time, the bookmobile was continued and books were available upon request. Father Grant, an Anglican priest from High Rock suggested the vacant telecommunication building on the main highway be used for a library. Mr. Godfrey Bethel was contacted. On December 20th, 1995, Mr. Bethel submitted Mrs. McCutcheon’s proposal and a covering letter to the Ministry of Works.

On March 13th, 1996, Mrs. McCutcheon received a letter from Mr. Lester DeGregory stating that the application had been approved. Mrs. Demaris Thompson was notified, as the project was a direct result of ‘Let’s Read Bahamas.’ Books were transferred to the building and men from the Ministry of Works assisted in transporting filing cabinets, bookcases, desks and other equipment.

During the summer of 1996, Mrs. Vayle Lorien and Mrs. McCutcheon worked daily cataloguing the books and during the summer of 1997, a Government sponsored enrichment program took place. In 1998 Mrs. McCutcheon completed a Ministry of Education sponsored Library Science course at The College of The Bahamas (COB).

The first Ham Day was held at the Freetown Primary School in January 1998. One goal of the Library’s Board of Directors was to preserve the historic significance of the Missile Base and the part The Bahamas (Grand Bahama Island in particular) played in the United States space program. For this reason, the Board chose to select as its annual fund-raising celebration January 29th, which was the anniversary of the chimpanzee ham’s flight into space. The board also felt that a chimpanzee would have a special appeal to children as a library mascot.

The second Ham Day was held the following year at the East End Missile Base Library with Mr. Peter Carpenter reading from a book he had prepared especially for the occasion. The third annual Ham Day focused on the donation of the library to the Ministry of Education thus fulfilling the agreement set out in the original proposal. The primary speaker this time was US Ambassador Arthur Schechter. Also in attendance were the Honourable Zhivargo Laing, Minister of Education and Youth, Kenneth Russell, Member of Parliament, Demaris Thompson, Ministry of Education, Administrator Cash, Dawn Palacious (Alan Shepard’s cousin) and the library board members. Demaris Thompson accepted the key on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

In February 2000, the library served as a resource center for the Lucayan International School during its environmental studies workshop. A committee has been formed to research the history of the Missile Base.

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