“Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague.”
– Eleanor Crumblehulme (Library Assistant, University of British Columbia, Canada)
Saying that the state of libraries in the Eastern Cape or in South Africa is facing a crisis is an understatement, The Eastern Cape particularly is in deep crisis. The province finds itself with deep rooted societal challenges that are a result of centuries of injustices and unfair hierarchical systems facing our country. It is time for libraries to take up the challenge and become gateways to finding solutions rather than complaining about these inequalities.
On Tuesday 19 November 2019, a group of 15 librarians from different libraries in Grahamstown met under the umbrella of UKS – Africa’s leader in library solutions, to discuss how librarians and libraries can be better equipped to face some of our societal challenges.
School heads, library directors, senior managers, library assistants and interns from various Makhanda libraries met in the newly opened St Andrew’s College, Thomas Mapikela Debating Chamber to share their views.
The aim of this workshop was to partner with UKS to brainstorm a way forward for improving library service in the Eastern Cape, and to find ways of providing training opportunities for the many teachers and library assistants, who are at present manning our libraries.
There has never been a more urgent time in our country’s history to equip library workers with the professional skills necessary to provide users with efficient access to knowledge. Our Youth need to be inspired and the time is ripe for schools and the government to channel their resources into libraries. UKS has the skills and resources to upskill the many competent and passionate library workers.
This gathering of like minds began the conversation to try and arrange the training of our library support staff and assistants who in most cases have not been able to get any formal library qualifications.
If we are to efficiently offer our services to the library users of the future, we have to up our game and ensure that our libraries are staffed by competent and passionate librarians and library assistants. The meeting ended with a discussion and proposal to offer the Occupational/Qualification Certificate Level 4/5 course in 2020 in the Eastern Cape. For all of us, this is a step in the right direction. Our delegates were then taken on a tour of the beautiful Cawse Library at the end of a most successful workshop.