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It takes a village to keep libraries alive

The Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) celebrates South African Library Week from 19-25 March 2018 with the theme, Libraries: Heart of the Community. SA Library Week was initiated in 2001 by LIASA to be a commemorative period recognised by government for all types of libraries across the country to market their services. This development was partially due to joint ventures, partnerships, cultural projects, and international participation, which resulted in more leadership and skills development as well as recognition of the importance of libraries for all South Africans and its contribution towards literacy development.

There is no shortage of evidence to show the link between literacy, academic attainment and future employment and libraries are well-positioned to nurture children’s early and ongoing literacy learning. Libraries play a major role and yet they remain largely invisible in the community and are many times just a point of discussion on the government’s agenda. We are working on the Professional Body Status of LIASA to keep libraries alive, and to offer parents and children the opportunity to take the leap out of poverty through access to information, we need to work together.

Indeed, libraries don’t need to be the only role-player in advancing literacy or in making the basic human right of freedom of access to information a reality among all South Africans. When libraries work together with strategic partners including parents, teachers, authors, the book publishing industry and NGOs, we can increase the book-borrowing behaviour of adults and children, motivate for the purchase of new books in a variety of South African languages and the outcomes in terms of developing a love for reading and improving literacy skills in our country, will be much greater.

Many NGO partners are trying to make a real difference, such as help2read, Biblionef, FunDza, Shine Literacy, Breadline Africa, Nal’ibali and numerous others. Nal’ibali specifically has been connecting children and adults with their local libraries since its inception in 2012 and this SA Library Week, Nal’ibali Literacy Mentors are working with 28 schools in six provinces to assist children in signing up to be formal library card holders, so they can borrow books and become the super readers we all hope they will be. Further, the campaign will be assisting libraries in setting up their own reading clubs and will be working with an additional 30 libraries this year. While this is a drop in the ocean considering South Africa has over 500 public and community libraries, partnerships like this are in keeping with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. We must not forget that sustained actions, however small, can make a difference.

Provincial and national government are committed to establishing library infrastructures, services and skills to serve communities. Yet it is up to everyone to support community libraries to ensure that they remain at the heart of community.

Senovia Welman, is Public Relations Officer for the Library and Information Association of South Africa – LIASA

Visit their website for more:  www.liasa.org.za

For more information about SA Library Week, the Nal'ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, free children's stories in a range of SA languages, tips on reading and writing with children, details on how to set up a reading club or to request training, visit www.nalibali.org, www.nalibali.mobi, or find them on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.

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