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What we become depends on what we read

Righardt le Roux is the Nal’ibali School and Public Library Co-ordinator. Best known for his entrepreneurial and innovative skills of “taking libraries to the people”, he has won a multitude of awards for his community work. He talks to us about South African Library Week and how we become maps of what we read:

The theme for this year’s South African Library Week (14-21 March), Connect @ your Library, got me reflecting on how libraries can be at the heart of our communities. And certainly, as a librarian, they are at the centre of my own heart, but perhaps not the hearts of others.

When I tell people that I studied library and information science I see the confusion on their faces: ‘It that a science? Do you really have to study for four years to stamp books in a library? Who still goes to libraries anyway?’

But, having seen the impact libraries CAN have on the lives of community members; the fire in my heart is ablaze. Two particularly heartwarming stories come to mind when I think back on my experience as Programme Librarian at Westonaria Library in Randfontein, Gauteng. These two tales each involve a young girl:

The first, Apiwe Waka, came to me as a Grade 10 learner from Westonaria High School. Charged with a community-based project as part of the Life Orientation curriculum, she reluctantly approached me, the librarian, with a request for help. And by involving her in the library’s literacy development programme, she was soon reading and acting out multilingual stories to scores of small children in branch libraries, church tents, classrooms and our own library on a weekly basis.

Through her project and the library, Apiwe developed a love and appreciation for books and stories. And two years and hundreds of stories and community hours later, she was offered a full bursary to continue her studies. Today Apiwe ranks among the top five academic achievers at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

The second girl, Refilwe Tlali, not only filled Apiwe's shoes, but went on to walk the extra mile:

Making use of the regular delivery of Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment supplements to the library, Refilwe conducted weekly storytelling sessions with children of all ages.  Holding these in both the library and its outreach programmes, she soon established herself as a young ambassador for Library and Information Services.

Her efforts, recognised locally and internationally, led her to a short stint in the US where she participated as one of only three South African learners in the Pan-African Youth Leadership Programme. And, afterwards, when back on home soil, Refilwe was snapped up by one of the foremost law firms in the West Rand where she is now being schooled for further greatness.

These two real life stories, while both evidence of major personal successes, also serve as proof of the place libraries can have within our communities, delivering resources, opportunity and support. My encouragement, therefore, is for everyone to connect with their local library and become part of the inspiration, no matter how big or small.


For 5 ways to make the most of your community library, click here: http://nalibali.org/reading_story_topics/using-your-library/

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