South African Library Week: Brief History and Overview
SOUTH AFRICAN LIBRARY WEEK – BRIEF HISTORY AND OVERVIEW
LIASA through its diverse membership is driving the process to make SA Library Week a celebration of our country’s intellectual and literacy heritage. Libraries across the country use this annual event as an opportunity to market their services to the users, the broader community, civil society and also decision makers.
SA Library Week was initiated in 2001 by LIASA to be a commemorative period recognized by government when all types of libraries across the country use it as an opportunity to market their services in an effort to contribute to the understanding of the important role that libraries play in a democratic society, advancing literacy, making the basic human right of freedom of access to information a reality, and to promote tolerance and respect among all South Africans.
After extensive consultation with the membership the following proposal was accepted:
“That the week within which 20 March falls should be national library Week. In the event of this day failing within a weekend, then the week preceding it would be celebrated as national Library Week.”
The choice of the date was based on research into the history of libraries in South Africa:
The South African Public Library, now known as the National Library of South Africa (Cape Town Campus) was the first library to be established in South Africa. This was done by a government proclamation on 20 March 1818. The South African Library in fact started off as a true public library and has established itself as a pioneering institution in South African library history.
Furthermore, we celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March and our Bill of Rights recognizes the freedom of access to information as a basic human right. We are therefore able to link an important historical event with a crucial date in our new democracy.
This proposal was strongly supported by the then Department of Arts, Culture Science and Technology, which further proposed that the Week be renamed South African Library Week. SA Library Week was officially celebrated for the first time in 2002 and has become a very important date on the national LIASA calendar. Since then SALW was driven by LIASA and celebrated nationally every year. LIASA confirms the dates and theme every year.
During 18 to 23 March 2002 LIASA organized a very successful South African Library Week that was celebrated in all types of libraries nationwide with the slogan “Free your mind - Read!” The Week was launched in Etwatwa, Daveyton.
This was followed by another successful programme during 17 to 22 March 2003 when libraries across the country focused on the theme “Your Right to Read!” LIASA’s Northern Cape Branch hosted the Launch in Kuruman on 15 March 2003.
In 2004 the broad theme for the year was 1994-2004: “Libraries in a Decade of Democracy” and the Week was launched in Cape Town on 13 March 2004.
In 2005, libraries across South Africa celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter. Library Week 2005 was celebrated during 14 - 18 March 2005 with the theme,
“Libraries: opening the doors of learning and culture to all.”
It was a theme that celebrated the founding principles of libraries, that they be the repositories of knowledge for future generations while at the same time making that knowledge accessible to all who need it. It will allowed the LIS sector to examine its services and evaluate whether we are fulfilling this mandate by making our services available to the most marginalized in our society; the illiterate, the disabled, people in under-resourced rural areas etc. Most significantly the Week was launched in Kliptown, Soweto, where the Freedom Charter first saw the light of day.
In 2006 the theme was “Libraries: partners in learning, nation building and development." It can be seen as a continuation of previous years when we focused on the role that libraries can play in a democratic South Africa. The theme focuses attention on the various ways in which libraries as the repositories of knowledge and information for future generations contribute to learning, nation-building and development.
2007: “Libraries: Your key to the future”
2008: “From local to Global @ your library” 17-22 March 2008
2009: “Access for all @ your library” 16-21 March 2009
2010: “Reading changes lives” 20-26 March 2010
2011: “Read in your language @ your library” 19-26 March 2011
2012: "Develop @ your library" 17 - 24 March 2012
2013: "Educate Yourself @ your library" 16 - 23 March 2013