Joyce Robinson has had a long and distinguished career in education. She started at the early age of 16½ and has blazed a trail ever since. Joyce Lawson was born in St. James on July 2, 1925 to Mr. and Mrs. Teddy Lawson. She became an orphan quite early on the death of her father and mother when she was 4 and 6 respectively.
Due to this tragedy, Joyce went to live with her maternal grandmother while her other siblings, two elder brothers, went to live with other relatives.
It was at the age of seven that Joyce Lawson began attending school for the first time at the Black River Primary where her adopted mother was a teacher at that time. She could neither read nor write but her teachers were impressed with her level of intelligence.
following her studentship at St Simon’s, Lawson taught at her alma mater and then at Black River High School from 1944 to 1949, and also served as a volunteer librarian at the St Elizabeth Public Library in Black River from 1946 to 1950. On January 15, 1957, she married Leslie Robinson, whom she had met on a banana boat.
He was a Jamaica scholar and renowned mathematics professor, who became principal of the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). They would become the first married couple awarded separate Orders of Jamaica. The marriage yielded a son, Leslie Anthony Robinson, and a daughter, Dr Lilieth Ann Robinson Bridgewater.
In the 16 years that elapsed between Robinson’s appointment as director of the JLS and Prime Minister Michael Manley’s call on her to proceed post-haste to the National Literacy Programme, the JLS had grown from 60 libraries to 442 libraries and service points.
She had initiated the rural bookmobile programme, which was serving 242 areas. The Schools Library Service had expanded from 333 to 853 libraries in primary and junior secondary schools. The professional staff training programme had accelerated to achieve an increase from one qualified librarian in 1955 to 37 in 1973.
Her career at the Jamaica Library Service was climaxed in 1958 at the opening of the new headquarters on Tom Redcam Avenue in Kingston. The opening ceremony was a national event as evidenced by the presence of Premier Norman Manley and Opposition Leader, Alexander Bustamante.
Dr. Robinson stated in an interview with Mr. Byron Buckley, that she felt very proud for being responsible, as the Director of Jamaica Library Service, for such a historic achievement at the age of 33.
Around Independence, she was integral in the introduction of television to Jamaica, and then in the 1980s as general manager of the then Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) the State-owned radio and television complex oversaw the transition from black and white to colour TV.
When the firebrand Prime Minister Michael Manley burned with a thirst to get Jamaica literate, it was to Joyce Robinson that he turned in the early 1970s to head up the vessel, JAMAL, the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy, now the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL).
Prime Minister Seaga would also turn to her in the 1980s when he needed a certain leadership for the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust.