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During National Library Week, people will be encouraged to visit the Johannesburg City Library, which has a vast store of information in its many books.
AS multimedia and the internet take over, delivering content and information to users, book sales have dropped, as has the number of people who use libraries.

Director NobuntuDirector of library and information services Nobuntu MpenduloTo try to get people reading the printed word again, the Johannesburg City Library has called on the public to make use of the thousands of books housed in the newly renovated facility. This was a raised at the launch of National Library Week on Monday, 19 March, held at facility.

The week is dedicated to encouraging people to make use of libraries and read widely. It is a national initiative observed annually. The national launch was held in Durban recently.

Speaking on the day, Tsakane Shiburi, the assistant director of library and information services in the City, said the unit’s desire was to see people flocking back to the library in their numbers.

While they encouraged people to move with the times and to keep up with technology, the printed word was always the best way of learning. “This library was built for the people of Johannesburg, and we would like to see them coming in numbers to use it.”

Develop @ your library
Library Week’s theme this year is “Develop @ your library”. Under it, the central library in the city plans to arrange of marketing campaigns to lure people to the library. To attract young people, it will offer computer, science and technology skills training programmes. These will be coupled with reading, writing and research skills training, according to Shiburi.

reads to childrenFreida Groffy reads out one of her poemsJulia Paris, the 2011 Library and Information Association of South Africa (Liasa) South Gauteng Librarian of the Year, and a librarian of 20 years, said librarians had a role in making libraries a pleasant place to be. “Librarians allow the inner experience of visiting the library to manifest outwardly and they assist it to express this inner experience through language, words, gesture and reading.

“A visit to the library in itself is unexplainable. The moment I set my foot inside the [Johannesburg City Library] I feel a great zill of wisdom, sense of innovation and creativeness. This library must never be empty; market it. We must inspire the people of Johannesburg to use it. Entrepreneurs, learners and the community at large should occupy the seats of the library.”

She commended the authorities who ensured that it did not lose its “originality” during the renovations.

Rebecca Senyolo, the chairperson of Liasa Gauteng, emphasized the importance of libraries in developing the community. “We need to cultivate the culture of reading, especially among young people,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to work collectively to ensure that we promote libraries. There is wealth of information in this library and many others across the country; we need to ensure that it is well utilised.”

Learners enjoy a day out at the City LibraryLearners enjoy a day out at the City LibraryThe third speaker on the podium, Freida Groffy, a poet and writer from Belgium, stressed the importance of preserving books. “We live in a technological world but let us not let it be our enemy; books are very special. I love to hold a book, smell a book and read from a book.”

Groffy read some of the poems from her book, African Footprint on my Soil. “Soweto Blues”, one of them, is about the struggles of mothers and children during apartheid. “I am passionate about women and children. In many instances they are not heard. They are the most vulnerable part of society.”

She was inspired by the history of South Africa, she said. Groffy, a social activist, is the founder of Soweto Connection, a non-governmental organisation. Through the organisation, she has established a library in Zondi, in Soweto which caters to more than 500 children daily.

Concluding the day’s activities, Nobuntu Mpendulo, the director of the City’s library and information services, encouraged librarians to go the extra mile in their work. “As librarians, we tend to underestimate ourselves. It is time that we defined our role. Let us look into our hearts and see what we can do for our community. We need to remain relevant.”

She encouraged the use of elessons to attract young people to the library. “Once they are back in our libraries, then we can show them, that there is a wealth of information that is not available on the internet.”

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