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THREE senior officials from Cape Town’s library and information services unit were hosted by their Joburg colleagues, who took them on a tour of various libraries in the city of gold yesterday.
They were in the city to assess the administration of Joburg libraries, and looked at issues such as legislation, service delivery strategies and staffing. The idea was to use this information to upgrade Cape Town’s libraries. Moreover, they came to learn about Joburg and its history and heritage, particularly regarding education.

Nobuntu Mpendulo, Joburg’s director of library and information services, and the three Capetonians visited four Soweto libraries, namely Pennyville, Orlando East, Jabavu, and Bram Fischerville, as well as Hector Pieterson Museum. At each stop, they heard a brief history of the library. Tours of the facilities were also given by the respective library managers.

Pennyville Library
First up was Pennyville Library where a satellite library service is run from a converted container. The library is located inside the premises of the Pennyville Crèche. Susan Wiersch, the assistant director of Region B libraries spoke. “The container was donated by Exclusive Books Reading Trust Fund in Zamimpilo informal settlements and was relocated to this crèche in September 2008.”

The Pennyville housing development is one of the City’s highest density developments, aimed at addressing the housing shortage and reducing the number of informal settlements in the region. As there was neither a crèche nor library, despite the rapid construction of the housing development, the satellite library site was identified as a means of catering for the community’s needs.

A librarian from Riverlea Library and two relief staff work at the library. It offers free library services to children from various schools in the area. There are story times, family literacy programmes and early childhood development programmes. “This is to expose children and the youth to the wealth of knowledge for their future development,” said Wiersch.

Pre-school children enjoy a good read at the Orlando East LibraryPre-school children enjoy a good read at the Orlando East LibrarySkill and development programmes are offered that promote family orientation. This is an initiative to get parents involved by telling stories to children. Moreover, the library offers the Sowetan and The Star newspapers daily, which are very well used by job seekers. Book collections circulate and are changed monthly.

Pennyville Library’s users increase annually. Already, there are 4 338 children and 234 young adults who use the centre.

Orlando East Library
From Pennyville, the group moved to Orlando East Library, the oldest in Soweto. Tholakele Makalina, who is in charge of Region D libraries, welcomed the visitors and took them on a tour of the facility.

There is a pre-school inside the centre that is open to the public. There is also a reserved political heritage collection. To get a book from here, a user must produce his or her identity book and leave it at the library until the book is returned. “These books are in demand. Demand for South African written and published books is high, therefore we cannot afford to lose these books. [Some] people have a tendency of not returning the books,” said Makalina.

The library is also preparing for the launch of an internet project. “We are bringing computers in two weeks and the internet will be opened to the public for free,” said Mpendulo. The computers will help local residents, especially the youth, learn to type, access career and job websites, and print out their research and other relevant information. They will, however, have to pay for printing.

Orlando East Library opened in 1948, with two corrugated iron units without electricity or seating space.

Jabavu Library
Brenda Kyle from the City of Cape Town at the Bram Fischer LibraryBrenda Kyle from the City of Cape Town at the Bram Fischer LibraryA much newer venue was also visited: Jabavu Library opened in 2008. It is the regional library and the latest arrival in terms of facilities. It is the biggest library in Soweto and was sponsored by Vodacom. It offers career guidance and has business corners, a research area, and a children’s area where youngsters can read books and listen to stories. It is a double-storey building; on the ground floor there is a reference area and computers locked in glass cubicles for security reasons, an activity room and a children’s corner. Upstairs, there is the youth cool area, where the youth can listen to music, play games and reads book while relaxing on the couches.

“The cost of the library was R14-million, with the City paying R10-million; R3.5-million came from Vodacom and R- million from the Department of Public Works,” said Mpendulo.

Bram Fischerville Library
Bram Fischerville Library is another satellite facility. There are mirrors on the walls because it is located in a space that was supposed to be a dance studio. “We use this area as we are still waiting for the facilities,” said Mpendulo.

The library is used by mostly by Unisa student and children, as other libraries are far away.

The tour ended at the Hector Pieterson Museum, where Antoinette Sithole took the visitors on a tour inside and outside the museum. She spoke about the memorial and showed them the streets where the June 16 protests started in 1976.

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