The Late Dr. Elizabeth Watson Remembered
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles; Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies
Dr. Elizabeth Watson was part of the heart of the campus culture that flourished over decades of institutional building. Cave Hill was blessed by her multiple contributions ranging from library resource development to academic excellence as a researcher of national popular music. Her pioneering work on Jackie Opel brought him from the depth of obscurity and forgotten hero to icon for a younger generation. This was in addition to establishing the academic dimensions of the brilliant, creative work of Red Plastic Bag. What an extraordinary contribution from a sociable and decent colleague! The university is greatly appreciative of her dedication to building excellence within its corridors and the wider community.
Professor V. Eudine Barriteau; Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill
It is with profound sadness that I learnt of the passing of Dr. Elizabeth Watson, former Campus Librarian, Cave Hill and founder of the Learning Resource Centre Information Unit of the campus which was renamed the Elizabeth Watson Audiovisual Unit in September 2014.
I worked closely with Dr. Watson as Deputy Principal and regarded her to be a consummate professional. She worked tirelessly to professionalise library services including developing the Medical and Cultural Studies collections, establishing the Richard B. Moore and the George Lamming collections, implementing the Liaison Librarian programme to better serve the needs of faculty and students, creating the Kerri-Ann Ifill Unit for the Visually Impaired, and creating a study room that allowed students to work together in groups, among others.
Dr. Watson cared immensely about library spaces reflecting Caribbean art, as part of the rounded development of our students. Consequently, she transformed the learning spaces of the Main Library of the Cave Hill Campus, renamed the Sidney Martin Library during her tenure as Campus Librarian, by acquiring and displaying many valuable pieces of Barbadian and Caribbean art.
As Librarian of the Learning Resource Centre Information Unit, Dr. Watson developed the largest tertiary-level audiovisual collection in the Anglophone Caribbean, an achievement that has set the Cave Hill Campus apart from other tertiary-level learning institutions.
In 2009, while serving as Chair of the Barbados Commission for the Memory of the World Programme, Dr. Watson was instrumental in securing the inclusion of the Federal Archives fonds and the Nita Barrow Collection, two valuable historical Barbados collections that are held at Cave Hill Campus, in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
At a personal level, her professionalism was flavoured with an infectious smile depicting the genuine warmth of character with which several colleagues from the libraries and across the campus interacted.
With Dr. Watson’s passing, The UWI, Cave Hill Campus and its libraries have lost a tremendous resource. She will be greatly missed.
To her family and close friends, I extend my deepest sympathies.
May she rest in peace.
Katherine Grigsby; Director and Representative, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean
It is with deep sadness that we, the members of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, learn of the passing of Dr. Elizabeth Watson. Dr. Watson’s invaluable contribution to Memory of the World (MOW) and its importance to the Caribbean cultures and the world as a whole, was very vital and instrumental in the development of Memory of the World programmes throughout the region. Her passing has surely created a void that will be very hard to fill.
We therefore take this opportunity to convey out sincere and heartfelt condolence to Dr. Watson’s family and colleagues. We pray they will find comfort in the memories she created with them. May her soul rest in peace.
Tribute to Dr. Elizabeth Watson from the staff of the Elizabeth Watson Audiovisual Unit
Driven, dedicated, goal-oriented, meticulous and proud. These are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when staff of the unit remember Dr. Elizabeth Watson. A consummate professional, she left no stone unturned in her quest to reach her goals. Dr. Watson is remembered as a fussy, private person who liked things done her way: perfect. “Tacky”, a word she was sometimes wont to use, was never her style.
These characteristics and her drive for perfection, moved her through the ranks of the profession from her initial post in 1968 as Library Clerk in the newly formed Learning Resource Centre (1979) to become the Campus Librarian by her retirement in 2014.
Dr. Watson’s interest in capturing recordings of the Caribbean’s intangible heritage at a time when little recognition was given to its importance, led her to develop a unique collection of audiovisual materials which still remains the largest of its kind among the libraries of The University of the West Indies. Staff recall the brown bag lunches which she initiated, inviting the campus community to have their lunch in the LRC Courtyard while listening to the live performances of specially invited local artists.
Dr. Watson’s professional affiliations, publication and public service record saw her passion for our intangible heritage reach new heights as she became involved in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Project (Chair), the Commonwealth Library Association (President), serving locally as a calypso judge and commentator, and authoring several journal articles and books.
After her promotion to Campus Librarian, Dr. Watson maintained an avid interest in the day-to-day running and development of the unit that was understandably close to her heart. Always still on the lookout for invaluable pieces of our intangible heritage, she would at times send us Caribbean recordings which she picked up during her travels to be added to the collection. On other occasions, there would be a brief email pointing us to some new item which she felt we needed to acquire.
In 2012, she successfully secured the fonds of Dame Olga Lopes Seale, an important addition to the audiovisual community archive for Barbados and the region.
Furthermore, Dr. Watson’s work and commitment to the unit was rewarded in 2014 when it was renamed from the Learning Resource Centre Information Services Unit to the Elizabeth Watson Audiovisual Unit.
Her interest in Barbadian spouge singer Jackie Opel and his life and work in her native Jamaica, propelled her to pursue her PhD in Cultural Studies, which she successfully completed in 2016. Her research on this Barbadian icon was also to the benefit of the audiovisual collection, which now boasts a significant number of vintage, vinyl recordings of Opel’s music.
The staff of the Elizabeth Watson Audiovisual Unit acknowledges the many accomplishments, hard work, professionalism, dedication and unique character of Dr. Elizabeth Watson. Her fearless spirit, relentless drive, and passion for perfection will always be remembered.
We extend our deepest sympathy to her family and friends. May she rest in peace.
Joan A. Brathwaite; Former Librarian, Law Library, The UWI Cave Hill
What I will always remember about Elizabeth is her perspicaciousness. She was down to earth, intelligent, said it was as it was, and meant it.
We were both librarians here on Campus for many years, but she worked in the Main Library, and I, in the Law Library. However, we met more regularly through our library affiliation with the Library Association of Barbados where we quite often held posts on the Executive together.
What intrigued me most about Elizabeth though was one of the tools that she kept on her desk. This was the Original Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words & Phrases in a new edition. Elizabeth constantly referred to this useful treasure, and we checked it assiduously when she kindly proofread one of my publications Women and the Law: A Bibliographical Survey of Legal and Quasi-legal Materials which was published by the University of the West Indies Press in 1999. But that was not all that she did in assisting with the launch of that publication. Elizabeth assisted the then Women and Development Studies Programme, and the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, now the Institute of Gender and Development Studies, Cave Hill, in the Book Launch kindly organized and hosted by the University of the West Indies Press which was held at the now Courtney Blackman Grande Salle, Central Bank of Barbados. Elizabeth’s now befittingly renamed Elizabeth Watson Audio Visual Unit, UWI, Cave Hill supplied the pictures, audio and video tapes, and assisted in many ways in the success of that afternoon’s event on Friday, 4 February, 2000.
Those of us who were fortunate to have been associated with Elizabeth during her tenure on Campus, and in other capacities, would have gained richly from her guidance in a variety of ways, most particularly as an author and researcher, and will always remember her for her co-operative spirit and kindness.
May she Rest in Peace.
Matthew Forde; Library Clerk, CLR James Cricket Research Centre
As a consummate professional, Dr. Elizabeth Watson always advocated excellence in all. This was expected from others as she did from herself. Her constant belief and pursuit in making the libraries of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill the heartbeat of the Institution was unparalleled.
As an educator, her vision to encourage the many members of staff especially the younger generation to equip themselves with as much lifelong learning as imaginable, was not only instrumental in the creation of highly qualified staff, but individuals who could now be and are integrated into any facet of the campus’ workflow.
Though a private individual, if you had the opportunity to work closely with her, she would always remind you of the path she took. From simple library clerk behind the desk to the pinnacle of the establishment she never, in my opinion, looked down on others, always making a mental note of where she came. She would state about education, “Once you have it no one can take it from you”.
Personally, after we graduated together in 2016, she with her doctorate and I my first degree, I approached her and declared: “elementary, my dear Watson” to which she just smiled. Dr. Watson had encouraged me to continue my studies after Barbados Community College, and as someone whom I found approachable, I would often consult her during my academic journey to seek the best ways forward in my study as well as which paths to follow to successfully complete my degree with excellence. This continued even after her retirement in my pursuit of further studies.
Your loss is inexpressible. There were times when your ways made us frown and complain. But after the dust settled, we admired your persistence to push us again and again. Other bosses give orders; you gave us direction. Other bosses give targets; you gave a vision. Others lead by authority, you have always led us by respect. The memories of working with an inspirational boss like you will never go. You used your authority to catapult us towards success, not subdue us under hierarchy.
My deepest sympathy to her family and friends. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.