South African Library Week (SALW) 2016 is upon us being launched on 11 March in KwaZulu-Natal by the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture and celebrated up to Human Rights Day on 21 March, the anniversary of the massacre at Sharpeville of 69 people who gave up their lives in the fight for fundamental human rights to life, equality and dignity.
SALW, initiated in 2001 by the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA), the professional body for South African library and information practitioners, partners and other interested parties, is a memorial period that dovetails with these rights by underscoring another: that of access to freedom of information as recognized by the national Bill of Rights.
Imagine having a gold mine within your reach and reasonable access to its treasures. There are restrictions such as the need to return these after a set period but the treasures may be consumed during this time or even on site; in either case, the treasures are not used up and remain available to everyone. You are enriched by these to your desired level but for those less in the know about the potential of this resource, staff are available to advise on optimal use. Why would you not take up this offer? Libraries offer resources that could transform individuals and the nation yet, are mired in pejorative stereotypes, admittedly of their own doing at times, are severely undervalued and ignored as another conduit to everyday information pertaining to many walks of life. On the other side, these spaces hum with activity as scholars and other people from many walks of life use the materials in all formats, internet, services of the librarians and community information.
Libraries use SALW to market their services, raise their profiles and show their congruity with present day society. Advocating on the issues relating to libraries to national government that recognize this as a national week escalates at this time. Libraries demonstrate the relevance within national visions such as the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030. Restructuring to a more equitable and prosperous society which embraces global citizenry as outlined in this perspective requires among other a changed skill set. The 2016 SALW theme #libraries4lifelonglearning (conceptualized in June 2015) responds accordingly.
The theme #libraries4lifelonglearning presents a holistic view of learning that is purposeful and continuous, is not constrained to the formal sector, can overcome historic legacies and be transformative. Methods that underpin this perspective develop in individuals the skills to acquire relevant information and from there to actively and independently create knowledge. Innovation – shaping products and services from acquired knowledge – is a logical follow through that potentially adds to the growth of the economy and leads to social improvement as envisaged in the NDP 2030. In all of this, wellresourced libraries are seen to be a key support structure.
Past SALW themes point to the diverse and complex roles libraries play in society:
Responsiveness to global and political changes: ‘Celebrating libraries in 20 years of democracy: check in @ your library’.
Responsiveness to global technological changes: ‘Connect @ your library’ and ‘From local to Global @ your library’.
Reading as a key component of transformation: ‘Educate Yourself @ your library’, ‘Develop @ your library’, ‘Free your mind – Read’.
Support of national imperatives: ‘Libraries: Partners in Learning, Nation Building and Development’.
This theme in particular augments the core approach the libraries’ contributions to society are amplified through partnerships. An African proverb that is overworked without its fundamental truth having been distilled advises ‘if you want to go fast go alone; if you want to go far go together.’ Booksellers, authors, publishers and anyone else with an interest in the library, its content and infrastructure are invited to renew, strengthen or engage with LIASA and libraries.
More than two decades after liberation our country remains characterized by divisions. Lifelong learning provides opportunities to dissolve boundaries that may be in place among traditional sectors: education, the labour market and industry; or, other facets of society whether these are regional/geographic, socio-cultural or political. Through the use of library services and resources people obtain insights to the ways of others which is hoped will lead to understanding and tolerance.