The National Library of South Africa Hosts Library Marketing and Advocacy Indaba

“The philosophy of Ubuntu promotes the sharing and protection of resources among community members, as we know that to respect the property of fellow citizens is Ubuntu” 

In response to Section 2(b) of the National Library of South Africa Act, Act 92 of 1998, which states that the National Library “provide leadership, guidance and advice to South African libraries and information services”; the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) hosted a crucial three-day Library Marketing and Advocacy Indaba from 24 to 26 January 2022 in Cape Town to address the co-ordinated and strategic marketing of libraries and a culture of reading in South Africa. The Indaba brought together Heads of Provincial Library Services; marketing and communications officers and officials responsible for reading programmes across the country.  The NLSA has however, organised previous Indabas which were held in the years 2013 and 2018 respectively. 

National Librarian and CEO, Mr Kepi Madumo opened the Indaba highlighting the urgency of such a gathering in libraries’ endeavour to ensure the awareness, access and  effective marketing strategies to deliver sustainable value to library users.  Moreover, Mr Madumo reaffirmed that it was essential for the NLSA to gather information about the barriers faced by community and public libraries in the promotion and marketing of library services and facilities.  “The impetus of convening the summit derived from the need to establish and strengthen collaboration, co-operation and partnerships for improved library marketing and advocacy programmes,” said Mr Madumo.

Ms Refiloe Mabaso, Chairperson of the NLSA Board extended a warm welcome to all participants and pointed out that the hosting of this Indaba arose from the fact that there was an urgent need to lobby and advocate for the protection of library services in communities.  She briefly reflected on the vandalism and destruction of the Motherwell Library in the Eastern Cape and lamented that the destruction of public property violates the principles of Ubuntu.  “The philosophy of Ubuntu promotes the sharing and protection of resources among community members, as we know that to respect the property of fellow citizens is Ubuntu,” remarked Ms Mabaso. 

On the role of libraries during COVID-19, the Chairperson highlighted that not enough attention is being paid to the changing environment in which libraries now have to work.  She went on to state that Section 32 of South Africa’s Constitution recognises the right of all people to have access to information and the Coronavirus pandemic has had dire implications for libraries that had to close its doors or offer limited library services.  In relation to facilitating access to information, Ms Mabaso said that, “the introduction of Information, Communications Technology (ICT) has heightened accessibility of information, but we must bear in mind that South Africa remains a deeply unequal country with the majority of people with no access to the internet.  It is our responsibility to ensure that we strike a balance between digital resources and traditional library service offerings”. 

Wrapping up her welcoming address, Ms Mabaso congratulated the Free State Province on being the best performing province with a Matric (Grade 12) pass rate of 85.7%.  In conclusion the Chairperson reminded attendees that libraries need to develop innovative strategies in order to satisfy the needs of customers.  Moreover, it was important to adopt efficient lobbying and advocacy strategies to promote library services.

The NLSA invited subject matter experts from the Library and Information Services (LIS) sector, Government Communicators, Academia and stakeholder relations who presented throughout the course of the three days.  The first day focused on experiences and case studies on the use of ICT, while the second day featured presentations on measuring the impact of library marketing and programmes targeted at people living with special needs.  On the last day of the Indaba, Provincial Heads of Departments were given an opportunity to present their achievements, challenges, experiences and best practices.  In addition, during the last segment there were small working groups to devise action plans for improving marketing and advocacy.

Closing remarks were made by the NLSA’s Executive Director:  Core Programmes, Ms Nokuthula Musa who made an undertaking to assist community and public libraries in their challenges, within the confinements of the NLSA mandate.  She reported that the outcome of the Indaba would be a development of a Marketing and Advocacy Strategy to guide marketing and advocacy efforts across the country.   

The workshop ended with very positive feedback from delegates who affirmed that there was renewed optimism for change and the implementation of ideas generated from the Indaba.  There was overwhelming support and unanimous agreement on the need to host a Library Marketing and Advocacy Indaba on an annual basis.

Ms Refileo Mabaso, Chairperson of the NLSA Board


Seated in front is National Librarian and CEO, Mr Kepi Madumo


Library Marketing and Advocacy participants