This week is SA Library Week. This event is a joint initiative between the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs (DCAS), national Department of Arts and Culture, National Library of South Africa, the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA), the City of Cape Town and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).
The theme for this year’s South African Library Week, Connect @ your library, is aligned with our government’s aim of ensuring libraries provide citizens with access to print and electronic resources and services and also provide people, particularly our youth, with a safe space to learn and interact with each other.
A total of 361 of the country’s 1 993 public libraries are located in the Western Cape. And there are 1.1 million registered library users in our province. Libraries offer a platform to communicate cultural, educational, and recreational values to local communities. I really look forward to the celebrations that will take place in May this year when our provincial library service turns 60 – an important milestone.
In the 2015/16 financial year, the Western Cape budget allocation to libraries is R304.875 million. However, one of our challenges is meeting the increasing need for library facilities and services at a time when our budget is shrinking. In addition, uncompetitive salary levels for librarians make it difficult to recruit and retain suitably qualified staff. However, we are rising to the challenge. In addition to continually improving our traditional library services and materials, we are also keeping up with the digital revolution.
One of our government’s priority projects over the next five years is providing access to high speed broadband to all residents of the Western Cape.
We will be providing broadband connectivity to approximately 2 000 Western Cape Government sites through our partnership with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and Neotel. 200 libraries will be connected by July 2016 under this programme. Planning has also started for rolling out Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries.
At the launch event on Friday, officiated by the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, learners from different backgrounds read three stories online to demonstrate how many people can read together and become connected through information technology. The stories were read in the three official languages of the Western Cape: isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans.
Minister Bredell added: “I encourage citizens to visit their local library not just during Library Week, but throughout the year. I also encourage parents to read with their children on a regular basis so that they develop their reading and literacy skills, which is critical to their later success at school. If everyone plays their role we can become BETTER TOGETHER.”