Call for libraries to drive social cohesion

Library Services acting senior manager Mandla Ntombela speaks at an event to promote the vital role libraries played in bringing people together.

Library Services acting senior manager Mandla Ntombela speaks at an event to promote the vital role libraries played in bringing people together.

Published Mar 24, 2024


Durban — With parks falling into disrepair or becoming crime hot spots, libraries could be the only refuge to develop young minds.

Durban University of Technology academic Dr Naresh Sentoo believes libraries have only scratched the surface in fostering social cohesion, and should do more to ensure that all communities felt included and embraced libraries.

Speaking at the Bessie Head Library in Pietermaritzburg this week to mark South African Library Week, Sentoo questioned whether libraries were fostering discussions with excluded people such as those living with disabilities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

The “Libraries Foster Social Cohesion” theme aimed to celebrate libraries in the country.

In his speech, Sentoo challenged the quality and relevance of information provided by libraries under the current circumstances.

“We are content with providing information in libraries but we should ask whether the information is meaningful for social cohesion,” said the academic.

He suggested librarians should broaden the scope of their important contribution to communities to encompass social cohesion.

He noted how, with the collapse of infrastructure at parks and recreation facilities, libraries provided the only refuge for young people, and called on librarians to be mindful of the important role they were playing in the development of young minds.

“Let us walk the talk,” Sentoo said.

He added that libraries should be leading discussions about religion and cultural practices so that some of the misunderstandings could be ironed out.

The event included distinguished guests from different organisations in and outside the country, and showcased performances of music, reading and poetry.

One of the objectives was to promote the power of reading books in communities, which he said enabled people to better and empower themselves through knowledge gained from reading with understanding.

As part of the festivities Msunduzi municipality southern library services also launched a new library and handed over basic computer certificates at the Sevontein Correctional Facility in Elandskop, Pietermaritzburg, to “develop creative minds in a community behind bars” to celebrate library week.

Library Services acting senior manager Mandla Ntombela said March was marked to honour the vital role libraries played in bringing people together.

He stressed that this included inmates at correctional facilities.

“As information workers, we need to ensure that it reaches the communities,” said Ntombela.

He expressed the libraries’ commitment to ensuring that no community was left uncatered for as they sought to foster connections, promoting unity and transforming people’s lives, and he pointed out how the event at Sevontein Correctional facility was an illustration of this.

He said the certificate handover to inmates illustrated the advantages of reading and the ways in which offenders had been able to transform negative experiences into positive ones.

Various sponsors and stakeholders were also able to witness the offenders perform music and reading aloud.

“Msunduzi library continues to promote information services and resources as well as reading and the benefits of literacy in our communities and it is a commitment that we will continue to pursue,” Ntombela said.

It was noted how with 2024 being an election year in the country, libraries were once again expected to play a crucial role in providing information that will enable voters to make informed choices on May 29.

Independent on Saturday