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​The Johannesburg City Library has been smartened up and brought into the forefront of the modern world. After several years of renovations and upgrades, it is to reopen on Valentine’s Day.
FOLLOWING extensive renovations and new additions, the Johannesburg City Library will re-open its doors on 14 February, adding a modern element to its classic design.

Joburg 2040The dramatic central city building now has a seamless flow from the old to the new structure, returning the facility back to its rightful place as the “heart of the city”.

Situated between President, Market and Sauer streets, this library has been described in Joburg 2040, the City’s Growth and Development Strategy, as “a building block in the strategy to ensure that barriers to education and learning are reduced and to unlock the potential of our youth”.

The Johannesburg City Library is a protected heritage building, which first opened its doors on 6 August 1935. In 2008, the City – in collaboration with the Carnegie Corporation of New York – undertook to upgrade and extend it to turn it into a model city library. Work began in 2009.

It been transformed with technological upgrades to become a learning centre of excellence. It will now be able to accommodate some 566 people in the building, compared to its previous 255 seats. Study spaces, meeting and discussion areas, and a centre to teach computer literacy have all been included in the new modern face of the library. Three new floors have also been added, which rise in the centre of the original building.

Wi-fi access
It has been brought up-to-speed regarding electronic information, and has 212 public access computers and wi-fi areas. The old theatre has also been restored and is now a public activity space or conference venue.

Apart from all the other amenities, collections such as the Africana in the Harold Strange Collection of African Studies; the Michaelis art collection; the performing arts collection; the newspaper and picture collection; and the children’s book collection will also be included.

Additional toilet facilities, modernised lifts, and upgraded electrical and air-conditioning systems will also help make both the old and new sections of the library, a fully functional space more like a socially inclusive living room or home-from-home.

A number of interventions to alleviate high levels of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion have been incorporated into the facility’s centre for excellence. This centre will have a focused support area that will work to narrow the skills mismatch between industry needs and the available labour force, to help combat the unemployment rate.

Supporting under-resourced school library services with professional staff members skilled in assisting any task or activity required is another of the facility’s mandates. Funding of about R26-million came from the Carnegie Corporation to upgrade and increase the range of library services; an additional R67,5-million renovation commitment came from the City.

The funding also provided for:

The appointment and training of staff to weed the specialised reference collections of irrelevant, unused, out-of-date and worn materials;
The linking of the remaining stock of the specialised collections to the data base;
Subscribing to electronic databases;
Buying and linking new stock; and
Buying audio-visual equipment and equipment for the digitisation of the library’s news cuttings collection.
During a sneak-peak inside the new library late in 2011, Executive Mayor Parks Tau said that the City strove to be a smart one by providing services that were easy to access and use with efficiency, and in its responsiveness to the needs of its people.

“Increased literacy, skills and lifelong learning among all levels of our citizens is our aim in improving the quality of life for everyone,” he said. “Reading is important; it is a means of language acquisition, of communication and of sharing information and ideas.”

Apart from helping to fund the renovations, the Carnegie Corporation also chose the Johannesburg City Library for its Revitalizing of African Libraries Programme.

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