Keynote Address by Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi during opening of new Shiluvane Public Library at Shiluvane village, Mopani District Municipality, Limpopo
Theme: Dual purpose libraries
MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Mme Nandi Ndalane;
Your Worship the Executive Mayor of Mopani District Municipality, Cllr Mme Nkakareng Rakgoale;
Your Worship the Mayor of Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality, Cllr Mme Dikeledi Mmetle;
All Councillors present;
Acting HOD: Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mme Maraba;
Acting Municipal Manager, Mr. O.Z. Mkhombo;
CEO of the National Library of South Africa, Professor Rocky Ralebipi-Simela;
All Government officials present;
Members of the Ward Committees;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to be part of the official opening of the newly built Shiluvane Public Library. I wish to thank the MEC for the invitation and for the opportunity to be part of this historic occasion.
Being a former librarian myself it is indeed heart-warming to see this brand new library with all its assets that will open the doors of reading and learning to the community.
We all know by now that the reading and information needs of many South Africans are not met, since many citizens do not have access to library and information services, or only have to deal with sub-standard services. Illiteracy and unemployment are amongst the national challenges facing our nation and it is our sector’s duty to correct this situation and to participate in improving the quality of everyone’s lives.
If we, as politicians and officials who determine policy in the Arts and Culture sector ask ourselves: Why are we here? What is our mission? I trust that we will honestly say that-
- We love reading; therefore it is our aim to create an environment where the love of books and a culture of reading exists;
- We want all our citizens to be able to read, write, converse, and value ideas and thoughts; therefore it is our aim to propagate libraries and the value they have to offer to all citizens;
- It is our aim to build local libraries filled with a wealth of books, computers, and other electronic equipment, and to appoint professionally qualified librarians who will render services of high quality to the community.
We remain committed to do this and many more as we celebrate what we have achieved in the 20 years of democracy and what still needs to be done to move South Africa forward.
We need to find innovative ways of service delivery, for instance by prioritising library and information services to the youth, since the provision of information plays a very important role during the foundational years when young people are open to new ideas. The successful development of our society will only be reached if we have well-informed citizens and it is in this field where librarians and schools have important roles to play.
The South African Government has an agenda to expand the South African public library infrastructure across the country, and we have data informing us which areas are the most under-resourced and need the service the most. The government seeks to reinvent our intellectual potential and resources in order to create a more inclusive society.
National, provincial and local governments must support the development of library and information services since “Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as on free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and education” (UNESCO Public Library Manifesto).
An improved public library network forms part of our strategic goals to ensure easy access to information and knowledge. To this end the Department of Arts and Culture has undertaken a number of initiatives since 2006 to not only understand the challenges that are facing the sector, but to also implement measures to address these challenges.
Need for Dual - Purpose Libraries especially in Rural Areas
There is a need for cooperation between school libraries and public libraries in South Africa, since these two sectors have similarities that could be explored and expanded to the benefit of its users. Public and school libraries house materials and ideas that are important in developing young people’s minds and that will equip them with learning and reading skills for the rest of their lives. Cooperation between schools and public libraries will improve the provision of library services to the young learners in specific areas.
Public libraries support the information needs of primary, secondary and adult education and are increasingly fulfilling an educational role in society. At the moment public libraries are the only facilities that provide free access to computers and the internet to many people and the demand for electronic services is ever increasing. We need to take note that the use of modern and up to date technology and equipment will attract learners and students to the public library.
Both the public and school libraries provide relevant educational information to children to improve literacy and to inculcate a culture of reading. The librarians are the links between the users and the resources and must be well qualified to render these services.
Both the Departments of Arts and Culture and Basic Education have embarked on a collaborative effort to enhance the optimal utilisation of existing library services, especially in rural areas that are generally under-serviced. Although school libraries and public libraries resort under different Departments, the shortage of school libraries and the urgent need for information with regard to the curricula have brought the need for cooperation to the fore.
The two Departments have to deal with similar challenges with regard to the provision of library and information services to learners and other users. There are huge backlogs in the country with regard to the provision of public and school library services. The collaboration between the two Departments will ensure provision of classroom libraries, mobile and school community libraries, as well as library and information services in all schools. The Department of Basic Education indicated in its National Education Infrastructure Management System report in 2011 that only 7% of schools have functional libraries.
Provinces have also signed agreements with the Department of Arts and Culture to build new libraries in close proximity to schools in an effort to reduce the pressure on the Department of Basic Education. It is necessary that formal agreements must be signed between the Provincial Education Departments and the municipalities where public libraries can assist in order to formalise the measures of cooperation, especially in areas where there are no functional school libraries.
We need to look into implementing strategies for sharing resources, infrastructure and staff, to render cost-effective information services to our communities.
I wish to remind you again that in South Africa our policy and legislative framework recognizes the significance of access to information and its impact on the socio-economic conditions of our people. We must be developing the necessary tools, checks and balances to ensure access to information for all citizens.
As we officially open the Shiluvane Public Library, I am reminded of the words of the iconic, world renowned poet, writer and human rights activist, the late Maya Angelou,
“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him”.
I call upon the community of Shiluvane to strongly value the public library that has been built for them, and that the community will realise the potential that the materials and resources offer them to promote literacy and to improve the quality of their lives.