Published On: Thu, May 24th, 2018

Library-director Alberts leaves after twelve years

Monique Alberts - 20180523 HH

PHILIPSBURG – After twelve years of service Philipsburg Jubilee Library-director Monique Alberts leaves St. Maarten per august 1; she has accepted a job as the manager of the Mongui Maduro Library, established at the historical plantation house Rooi Catootje in Curacao. Alberts informed the library’s supervisory board on Tuesday of her departure; she informed the staff on Wednesday.

Albert’s departure comes as a shock to many who considered her a fixture at the library. In 2014, the now defunct newspaper Today named her its Person of the Year and one of the things she said in an interview with that newspaper was: “We’re in dire need of a state-of-the-art building.” Just when plans for such a building – that will bring the library under one roof with the St. Maarten Archeological center and the museum – seem to be moving forward Alberts made a career move that will make a state-of-the-art building her next work place.

Library Mongui Maduro

The Mongui Maduro Library is housed in a modern building that was completed just eight years ago. It stands on the 30-acre Rooi Catootje Estate, where the former plantation house holds a precious historical collection of artefacts and furniture that depict the Jewish history and the general history of Curacao.

The library matches the museum in terms of the collection it holds. “It began with a private collection by the Maduro family,” Alberts says.

The plantation house was built in 1820 and since 1853 it has been the property of the Maduro family. S.A.L. (Salomon [Mangui] Abraham Levy) Maduro and his wife Rebecca Curiel lived there. On March 5, 1974, widow Rachel Louise Lou Maduro and daughter Ena Dankmeijer-Maduro established a foundation in memory of Mangui Maduro who wished to make his precious possession accessible to the public.

The remarkable collection at the Mongui Maduro Library is probably one of the best kept secrets of Curacao; and Monique Alberts has now been hired to change all that.

“They want to go more public,” Alberts says amidst the ruins of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library where workers are busy repairing broken windows to prevent further burglaries. “The Mongui Maduro Library is very well organized but wants to develop more services geared at an international public.” Alberts will among other duties be tasked with digitizing the collection so that the library becomes accessible for researchers from all over the world.

Jewish families have played an important part in the history of Curacao and the Mongui Maduro Library reflects that.

In St. Maarten, the library was first and foremost a social project with all kinds of activities, like helping children with their homework and activities to combat illiteracy. In Curacao, Alberts will move into a more academic environment. “However,” she says, “They also want to do activities for the public. That is not happening often enough right now. It is a beautiful building at a beautiful location. My plan is to organize a lot of lectures there.”

The decision to accept the job in Curacao and to leave the Philipsburg Jubilee Library behind was “difficult,” Alberts says. “The transition to a new director will not be easy. It is currently unclear when we can move to a temporary building. That makes it complicated to transfer my duties to someone else. I have submitted my resignation to the board and they will have to find a solution.”

Chances that the next library director in St. Maarten will be a woman are above average – and she could be a local. Alberts elaborated on women’s role in the world of libraries in the Today-interview in 2014. “Many women are motivated to become librarian. That is not only the case here, but also in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, young St. Maarteners are not really interested in becoming librarians. There are only two St. Maarteners with a library degree that we know of. This is one of the reasons that our library used to hire a lot of librarians from the Netherlands. Since I became director I focus more on upgrading the local staff to become trained librarians.”

Photo caption: Library-director Monique Alberts. Photo Hilbert Haar.

Second photo caption: The building of the Mongui Maduro Library at the Rooi Catootjre estate in Curacao. Photo screenshot.