Address by Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu at the 2017 LIASA Conference, Birchwoord Hotel and Conference Centre

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03 Oct 2017

LIASA President, Mr Mandla Ntombela

LIASA President –Elect, Ms Nikki Crowster

CEO of the National Library of South Africa, Prof Rocky Ralebipi-Simela

CEO of the South African Library for the Blind, Mr Francois Hendrikz

Honoured Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning

I welcome you all this morning to the 18th Annual Conference of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA). Congratulations to LIASA for reaching teenage years. It is now an opportune time to re-imagine the significance and impact of library services in our country. This conference with the theme “Re-envisioning the role of Library Services” is a critical step in the right direction.

I am privileged to be part of this exciting annual conference of the LIS sector. Recently, I attended the International Federation of Library and Information Associations and Institutions (IFLA) annual conference in Wroclaw, Poland in August 2017. It was an interesting opportunity for me to learn how libraries contribute to sustainable development goals. It was also an eye opener for me to understand how the library profession is structured and organised across the world. My impression is that you are a closely knit network of professionals and library practitioners whose ultimate goal is to improve society.

As you are aware, 2017 is the year of OR Tambo and we have just celebrated Heritage Month under the theme “"the Year of OR Tambo: Celebrating Our Liberation Heritage. Our liberation heritage, its genesis and rationale is contained in the documents stored and preserved in our libraries and are accessible to the community at large.  It is critical that as you discuss and deliberate on the role of libraries in society you also begin to ask yourself to what extent do libraries collectively promote our heritage and what success stories can we share. How do libraries align themselves with national priorities and goals? I hope in your discussions you will consider these questions and whether indeed we have the right skills and competencies to meet the demands of society at large. 

The African Library and Information Association (AfLIA) committed to champion the Cape Town Declaration and the Department is pleased to learn that through its guidance, African countries are implementing the Cape Town Declaration. We are looking forward to receiving positive reports during a Ministerial follow-up meeting scheduled in July 2018.  The Cape Town Declaration will remain the unifying vision for libraries on the continent and the Department will do everything within its mandate to ensure its successful implementation.

As the Department of Arts and Culture, we acknowledge the on-going challenges and opportunities of the current legislative framework relating to the LIS sector, compliance issues and digitization of collections which to some extent hampers the provision and access to information. The Department is aware that previous legislative reviews have not been completed as it was expected. However we are looking forward to the finalization of the Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage which seeks to align our institutions with our priorities.

Currently, with the support of the National Council for Library and Information Services (NCLIS) a team of experts is appointed to consult the sector with the aim of developing the Library and Information Services Policy. A policy which will be inclusive, coherent and integrates services across all sectors and position South Africa as the best reading nation and guide the sector towards the provision of library and information services. This policy will help the Department to develop a national reading strategy which will guide our programmes and activities.

The Amendment of the Copyright Bill is also currently underway. I am aware that through the Legal Deposit Committee, the LIS sector submitted its input during the public hearings which were held in August 2017. We are looking forward to the revised document.

In our country, access to information is a human right. Therefore, we are supporting the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and patiently awaiting our sister department of Trade and Industry to finally ratify the Marrakesh Treaty as it creates a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled.

In 2017/18, R1.4 billion is allocated to the sector through the community library conditional grant programme to amongst other priorities, continue to provide and improve public library infrastructure, including Information Communication Technologies (ICT), purchasing of library material in all formats including material for our fellow citizens who are reading differently and bridging the digital divide. Since 2007, the community library conditional grant programme has managed to build 129 new library infrastructure, 390 library buildings have been upgraded to attract more users, especially youth. 26 new libraries are expected to be completed and 40 libraries upgraded by 2017/18. Some of these libraries are built in close proximity to schools and libraries are purchasing materials to support teaching and learning. All these initiatives are emanating from the Library and Information Services Transformation Charter.

We recently met with representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   We were told how communities are being transformed through The Mzansi Libraries-On-Line project. This project is placing South Africa on top of the list of successful countries in the provision of free access to internet, Wi-Fi and access to top of the range technology.

Libraries should continue to enhance a culture of reading and writing. The availability of material in indigenous languages is always our priority. The National Library of South Africa (NLSA) through its component, the Centre for the book is striving to support upcoming writers to further improve their writing skills. Cross-language translations of South African classics will encourage our communities to read in their languages. Libraries should continue to create reading corners and support book clubs to increase the level of reading.

In conclusion, I would like to declare the 2017 Conference open and encourage everyone to actively participate in the discussions.

I thank you.