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History

Philipsburg Jubilee Library was founded on November 23, 1923, the year in which Queen Wilhelmina celebrated her silver jubilee. Hence its initial name "Philipsburg Jubilee Library". The initiative to set up a library was taken by W.R. Plantz, C.M. Darrell, C.C.G. Philipszoon, A.C. Wathey and C.A. Beaujon, who recognized the necessity and importance of reading by all.

The first books were purchased with money donated by some of the wealthier people on St. Maarten. A big problem was the absence of a permanent building. Time and again the library was moved around in order to make room for offices, schools, etc. In these early days the library was run exclusively by volunteers.

Some time in the late 1950s or early 1960s the St. Maarten Cultural Centre started a Dutch children's library, also run by volunteers. When a qualified librarian, Blanca Hodge, moved to St. Maarten in 1967, the then lieutenant governor, Mr. Jappa Beaujon, decided the two libraries should merge, keeping the name Philipsburg Jubilee Library. The new library was to be run by a board consisting of members of both libraries.



Mrs. Blanca Hodge started her new job in January 1968 by making quite a few changes. She catalogued the books and merged the members' records from the two separate libraries. At the time the library was housed in the same accommodation as the courthouse, where marriage ceremonies were also often conducted. Though sometimes interesting, this was hardly ideal. This situation ended in August 1968, when the library moved to a new building, together with the St Maarten Cultural Centre. In 1974 an extra member of staff was taken on and from 1978 the number of employees kept on growing up.

Quite soon the "new" library of 1968 became too small. As early as 1978 plans for a new building were emerging, but it took until 8 April 1983 for Miss Berthilde Carty and Miss Clemmy Carty, both pioneers in library work on St. Maarten, to lay the corner stone for the new premises. On 10 March 1984 the library moved to its new building on Ch. E. W. Voges Street, which was more than 20 times the size of its previous accommodation. The new library opened its doors to the public on 2 April 1984. From then on the card catalogue was superfluous as Philipsburg Jubilee Library became the first library in the Netherlands Antilles to be fully automated. In 1997 the internet found its way into the library, making it possible for every library member to become familiar with this medium, and on the occasion of its 75th jubilee, the library could be found on the Internet.

In 2017 the library building was hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Most of the building was damaged beyond repair. Also, the collections, archives, computer lab, and equipment were damaged or destroyed. After a clean-up, the library downsized its operations to the hall.

The PJL celebrated 95 years of existence on November 23, 2018. On November 1, 2018, Philipsburg Broadcasting celebrated 25 years of existence. One of their activities was to organize a radiothon as a fundraiser for a new library building. The theme of the radiothon was: looking back, moving forward. The radiothon was very successful; many businesses, families, and individuals donated, which will be used for the new library building.

In December 2018, it became clear that the building needed to be closed. The situation was not healthy and not safe anymore. In March 2019, the library re-opened on the second floor of the Adolphus Richardson Building at the W.A.J. Nisbeth Road #3 in Philipsburg. From the new location, the PJL continued to serve the general public. Due to the limited size of the location the number of books needed to be downsized to about 6% of the original collection. All other services were continued on a smaller scale. At the same time, the library started with new strategies to make it more accessible and visible.

To ensure good choices for new books, the library increased its collection of digital books. Between March 2019 and now, e-books rose from 600 to more than 6,000. The number of e-books is still growing. In cooperation with the Royal Dutch Library, patrons of the PJL also have access to their digital library, which offers about 70,000 e-books.

At the same time, the library, with the financial aid of R4CR, started to prepare two satellite locations (go to locations). The Cay Hill Satellite was opened on January 18, 2021, and the Belvedere Satellite was opened on July 13, 2021.

Since April 2018, the library has been engaged in discussions with the government and NRPB to start preparations for a new building financed by the World Bank Trust Fund. To date, this process is still underway but should be finalized in 2025.

On November 23, 2022, the PJL celebrated its 99th anniversary and launched its new logo and website. Since then, the PJL has been doing business as Sint Maarten Library; the pelican became part of the logo. The launch was a precursor of the countdown to the 100th year's celebration of the library in 2023.


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