195 years of libraries in South Africa!
It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge the 195th anniversary of the establishment of the first South African Public Library on March 20, 1818 by government proclamation. Interestingly Lord Charles Somerset’s tax on wine financed the founding and development of this library! This Library morphed over the years into the National Library of South Africa which has emerged as the flagship library in the country.
To understand the present, we often need to go back in history. Libraries were not unaffected by the various political dispensations in South Africa – in fact it has a rich but checkered history! I therefore urge you to read “The Development of South African Libraries in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Cultural and Political Influences” by Prof Archie L Dick (http://www.dissanet.com/ifla/pdf/LIASA%2002%20Dick.pdf) so that we all understand why it is important to continue to build a vibrant library culture and protect libraries as bastions of civil liberties.
During this South African Library Week, with the theme “Educate yourself @your library”, celebrate libraries and your role as librarians and information workers. Know that you are making an enormous difference towards providing free access to information, knowledge and learning resources. Let us commit ourselves to:
- ensuring that libraries are located in the midst of the development agenda
- raising awareness and the visibility of libraries amongst local communities
- being informed, proactive and dynamic professionals
- transforming and strengthening the profession
- becoming library advocates