The Belize National Library Service founded 75 years ago celebrated the significant milestone today with an award ceremony for the winners of a story writing competition.

The stories are written and designed to stimulate and encourage reading especially amongst children between the ages of 5 thru 8. Winner of the competition, 20 year old Kenishe Hoare spoke about the world of opportunities and benefits derived from being an avid reader.

Kenisha Hoare, Winner - Story Writing
"The importance of reading goes well beyond just entertainment. Being an avid reader instills comprehension skills, increases vocabulary and also helps with proper spelling and grammar. It is vital to the academic development of a child that he or she enjoys reading."

There were a total of 26 entries submitted to the competition. The other two winners of the competition are third place winner Valentina Polanco and second place winner Nancy Heinz Bailey.

For much of those 75 years that the National Library Service has kept its doors open to the public, the majority of users have been primarily students. But, with the advent of the internet, how relevant is the Library in 2011? That's what we asked the chief librarian.

Joy Ysaguirre, Chief Librarian, BNLS
"The library system will remain relevant Jim as long as we need to read and we need to preserve information and as long as there is knowledge in the world the library will be relevant. The format might change, it might not be books necessarily but the library will remain as a strong force in both education and literacy."

Jim McFadzean
"Has there been a decline in user ship at the library?"

Joy Ysaguirre, Chief Librarian, BNLS
"No not really. We have had some decline but not as much as people seem to think we have had. What the library service is trying to do is to merge technology with the written word and so we have change the focus of our service to the user and in that way remain relevant."

Jim McFadzean
"After 75 years what has been in your mind the greatest contribution to the society by the Belize National Library Service?"

Joy Ysaguirre, Chief Librarian, BNLS
"To me the largest contribution has been the fact that we have been able to manage information, make information available to the largest amount of users as possible, I also want to think that we have become more efficient and effective managers of information and in presenting that to as many people as possible across this country. We've been expanding, our mandate is far as I understand it is to create a literate society and I think we have make small but very significant steps in that direction."

Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
"It is a fundamental priority for the ministry of education and youth to encourage our people to read and to do so and develop the skills that are necessary to read at a very early age. The library is an integral part in the fight of this ministry in getting better literacy results and we are not only talking about early childhood's literacy, we are also talking about the problem of illiteracy even among our adults. You know how many of our adults can't read for a number of reasons - the language barrier being one of those issues in terms of being able to communicate in English. It doesn't mean they are illiterate, they have skills in another language but in terms of cooperating and functioning in the Belizean society where the official language is English. All of these issues become issues for our ministry and so we urge all our stakeholders, all our partners to do their part in assisting the ministry in this regard."

There are presently more than 40 Libraries serving the public nationwide.

Channel 7