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Celebrating South African Library Week
This year South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy. It is thus fitting that the theme "Celebrating libraries in 20 years of democracy: check in @ your library" was chosen for South African Library Week (SALW) 17-22 March 2014. The National Library of South Africa (NLSA) celebrated SALW with a number of events, starting with the SALW launch by the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) on 15 March 2014 at the NLSA Cape Town campus.

The President of LIASA, Ms Ujala Satgoor, officially opened the launch. She said that 2014 gave us an opportunity to review our achievements since 1994 and South Africa has a good story to tell as President Zuma declared in the State of the Nation address. ‘I fully agree with the President’s statement as great strides have been made to develop libraries since 1994’, acclaimed Ms Satgoor. She also said that 20 years is not a very long time, ‘more still needs to be done to improve our libraries, working together to strengthen our democracy’.

Deputy Director General, Mr Vusi Ndima, represented the Department of Arts and Culture at the launch. He said that it was important to indicate that a lot of transformation and redress has taken place since the dawn of democracy. He announced that a conditional grant of R1 billion was allocated in 2007 to the public library sector to transform and build rural and urban public libraries' infrastructure. Since 2007/8, 51 new libraries have been built, 272 existing libraries were upgraded, 1274 jobs were created, 45 new libraries are planned to be built and 150 existing libraries will be renovated in the next three years. Mr Ndima announced a further injection of R3 billion into the library and information services sector. The funds would be used to upgrade existing facilities, recruit more staff, and build new libraries. The aim is to transform libraries into more innovative social and information hubs.

Mr Ndima expressed concern about the torching of a library last month during a service delivery protest in Bronkhorstspruit, Tshwane. ‘These are disturbing trends, that communities would channel their anger at libraries which are supposed to be agents of change and transformation,’ said Ndima, stressing that the onus was on citizens to protect libraries.

Mr Darren Hoerner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation attended the SALW launch as a special guest. In his speech, he said that the ‘digital divide is not acceptable at all’, and that all people should have access to libraries and enabling technologies. He stated that libraries are a critical component in building a democratic process. ‘South African libraries are making freedom of access to information into a reality, and they are the institutions upon which the democratic stage was set.’

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation representatives are currently in the country to launch the Gates Foundation Global Libraries' Project as part of celebrating SALW. The launch of this project took place on the 18 March 2014 at the NLSA Pretoria campus. The NLSA was given a R32 million grant to pilot the Gates Foundation Global Libraries Project to strengthen public libraries. The two-year project would include training library staff in information and communication technology, expanding technology in public libraries, introducing new library services for community development, and redesigning library spaces.

Another highlight of the SALW launch was LIASA’s announcement of the ‘Librarians Choice: Top 20 titles in two decades of democracy 1994-2014’. Nominated by librarians, the top 20 books written by local authors and published since 1994 were revealed. They are (in chronological order):
  • ‘Long walk to freedom’ by Nelson Mandela, published by Macdonald Purnell, 1994
  • ‘Country of my Skull’ by Antje Krog, published by Random House, 1998
  • ‘I have life: Alison’s story’ by Marianne Thamm, published by Penguin, 1998
  • ‘Disgrace’ by J M Coetzee, published by Vintage, 1999
  • ‘Jamela’s Dress’ by Niki Daly, published by Tafelberg, 1999
  • ‘Heart of Redness’ by Zakes Mda, published by OUP, 2002
  • ‘Madonna of Excelsior’ by Zakes Mda, published OUP, 2002
  • ‘Confessions of a gambler’ by Rayda Jacobs, published by Kwela Books, 2003
  • ‘Dis ek, Anna’ by Elbie Lotter, published by Tafelberg, 2004
  • ‘Agaat’ by Marlene van Niekerk, published by Tafelberg, 2004
  • ‘Shirley, goodness and mercy’ by Chris van Wyk, published by Picador Africa, 2004
  • ‘Spud’ by John van de Ruit, published by Penguin, 2005
  • ‘Thabo Mbeki: the dream deferred’ by Mark Gevisser, published by Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2007
  • ‘Anderkant Pontenilo’ by Irma Joubert, published by Tafelberg, 2008
  • ‘13 uur’ by Deon Meyer, published by Human & Rousseau, 2008
  • ‘Elephant Whisperer’ by Lawrence Anthony, published by Sidgwick & Jackson, 2009
  • ‘Thula Thula’ by Annelie Botes, published by Tafelberg, 2009
  • ‘My father, my monster’ by McIntosh Polela, published by Jacana, 2011
  • ‘8 Days in September’ by Frank Chikane, published by Picador Africa, 2013
  • ‘Endings and beginnings: a story of healing’ by Redi Thlabi, published by Jacana, 2013
Niki Daly, the author of ‘Jamela’s Dress’, the only children’s book to make the list, said at the launch that it was a great honour to be selected alongside other distinguished South African writers. ‘I’ve received many other local and international awards, but there is something very special about being chosen by librarians, the people at the coalface. They are exceptional people.’

Also in celebration of SALW, staff members of Centre for the Book and NLSA Cape Town campus joined the staff of the City of Cape Town Central Library and Mobile Library on Tuesday 18 March on a friendly march through the streets of Cape Town. The aim of the march was to promote libraries, books and reading. The cheerful librarians with their colourful posters and banners attracted lots of attention. Curious bystanders were encouraged to join libraries and were handed bookmarks, leaflets and library bags.

The NLSA Conservation Department (Cape Town campus) in celebrating SALW held a one day bookmaking workshop for library workers on 19 March at Centre for the Book. The workshop was presented by NLSA staff members George Wentzel and Dale Zietsman. The participants came from various public libraries in the Western Cape, from as far afield as Wellington, Touws River and Paarl. They were taught how to sew their own book, do gold foiling, and each one left with their own handmade book. Certificates of participation were issued. Participants provided lots of positive feedback and enquired about the possibility of an advanced bookmaking workshop.

Click here to view LIASA President, Ujala Satgoor, and Deputy National Librarian, Rachel More, talk about SALW on SABC TV Morning Live programme.

Anita Shaw



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