WATCH: Why libraries matter more now than ever
The Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) invites the public to join it in celebrating South African Library Week (SALW) from March 15 to 21 March this year, with the theme “Libraries Matter!”
The past year has seen the whole world disrupted in ways that were unimaginable in March 2020, when LIASA presented the annual SALW celebration of all types of libraries and the services they offer to all communities across South Africa. The global pandemic has upended life as we know it and libraries are no exception.
Despite this upheaval, many libraries have managed to operate in novel ways in order to remain present and relevant in the lives of their user communities. From online storytelling to remote access to databases, from kerbside pickups to online programming, libraries have managed to continue providing a service to their communities.
What cannot be ignored is the fact that, to a large extent, access to information and resources has been severely curtailed in all types of libraries, whether they be school, academic, public or special libraries. Restriction on the number of onsite users and rising data costs have impacted severely on the most disadvantaged members of society, rendering libraries almost invisible and vulnerable to further cost-cutting measures.
South Africa has the largest and most well-developed LIS sector in Africa and needs to remind people that Libraries Matter!
Now, more than ever, people should advocate for libraries and the role that they play in society. Now, more than ever, it needs to be shown that libraries matter! They matter because:
Libraries value the right to freedom of access to information and freedom of expression as enshrined in our Bill of Rights and are a cornerstone of a democratic society.
Libraries provide communal spaces for social, cultural, political and economic interaction especially in communities where such spaces do not exist.
Libraries advance the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN 2030 Agenda through, among others, the inclusion of access to information, universal literacy, public access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and cultural heritage.
Libraries assist in preserving and promoting our literary and cultural heritage.
Libraries foster a literate society, from early literacy through storytelling and making materials available to children for reading and play, to providing access to a variety of reading and audio-visual materials for all ages, in all languages and reading formats.
Libraries support academic success by providing access to valuable reference sources and databases; they encourage further research and thus contribute to the growth of the knowledge base of the country
Libraries provide access to the internet (Wi-Fi as well as public computer access)
Libraries support life-long learning by providing access to learning programmes from the cradle to the grave.