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Announcing Mzansi On-line: Global Libraries Pilot Project

The Global Libraries Programme has benefited more than thirty countries in transforming and upgrading library services at international level. In South Africa, the programme has been approved as a two years pilot project hosted by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) and the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Prof. Rocky Ralebipi-Simela, CEO and National Librarian of South Africa (NLSA) announced a new name for the pilot project at the LIASA Conference, on 22 September 2014. She explained that it was necessary to re-name and re-brand the pilot library project to give it a South African identity. The name needed to be all embracing to the Library and Information Services sector and include inputs from the wider community, including the youth. A total of 28 name proposals were received by the end of August 2014.

The following criteria were used to evaluate the proposed names:
  • The name should reflect the project as a South African initiative.
  • It must assume a South African identity.
  • It has to be embraced and owned by most South Africans.
  • The purpose of the project, based on the country‚Äôs vision of the future (NDP 2030).
  • It should relate to everyone, including the youth.
'Mzansi Libraries On-Line' was found most suitable and appropriate new name for the Global Libraries Pilot Project in South Africa. The decision was made following a process of consultation and nomination with library and information sector stakeholders during July and August 2014. The name speaks to the youth by referring to South Africa as 'Mzansi'. It further emphasises connectivity through the 'on-line' application.

The project was approved as a two year pilot project involving 27 public libraries from all nine provinces, effective from January 2014 to December 2015. The launch took place on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at the National Library of South Africa in Pretoria. The pilot project is a precursor to a national country grant intended to strengthen and enhance current public library services through the utilisation of ICTs in public libraries.

The grant of R32 million from the Gates Foundation will enhance work already started by the Department of Arts and Culture's Community Libraries Conditional Grant, which provides internet facilities in public libraries countrywide. The grant for the pilot project is set to guarantee more access to, and uninterrupted use of, internet services in community libraries across the country.

Three libraries have been identified as beneficiaries for the project in each province. The criteria for selection included one library that had been built but had no equipment, and rural and peri-urban libraries which, once equipped, would benefit users and students in surrounding communities.

Each library will receive equipment estimated at R470 000. The equipment will include a variation of the following lists determined in order of priority and based on the needs identified by the respective library and/or provincial library authority: 20 computers (10 public, 3 games, 2 visually impaired and 5 office); 2 printers; 1 document scanner; software; 10 Tablets; 10 e-Readers; gaming room set up, including 3 computers, 3 X-Box console kits, 2 Play stations and gaming headsets.

The equipment is intended to contribute in enhancing the quality of life in local communities by focussing on specific activities, such as e-governance, health information, job and labour related issues, including education and recreational services which will assist in addressing national imperatives related to education, youth unemployment, community development and scarce skills amongst library practitioners at local level.

This project will enable the pilot libraries to redefine their services based on free internet access to information; introduction and incorporation of new technologies in existing and new services; re-designed spaces and technology infrastructure; and training and development of library end- users and staff, based on identified training needs.

Harry Matolong
Marketing & Advocacy Specialist, Global Libraries Pilot Project


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