By Toto Tsarneba and Malikhanye Mankayi
Makana municipality and Fikizolo Primary School have celebrated the annual South African Library Week with a marimba performance and a walk through the town by library services workers, who registered 100 new members on the day.
The event was held in Makhanda’s town centre on 22 March. This year’s South African Library Week was held under the theme “Libraries: telling powerful stories”, and runs until 26 March.
Patricia Vubela Njilo, assistant director of library services in Makana municipality, said they decided to celebrate the week by creating awareness in the community about the services they offer, and particularly to let people know that libraries are free to use.
“We have made March a fine-free month, meaning that those who have missed the deadline to return the books they borrowed from us will not be charged a fine for bringing books back late”, she said.
At the event, a group of library service workers walked along Makhanda’s High Street, calling out to people to come and use the libraries. There are seven permanent libraries in the municipality and one mobile library for rural farm areas: Grahamstown Public Library, Duna Library, Community Library, Extension Nine Modular Library, Fingo Library, Alicedale Library, Riebeeck East Library and the mobile library.
Njilo said even though they have many libraries in Makana, they also do not get enough funding from the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture.
“National funding for libraries is being reduced. The subsidies provided by the department are insufficient to maintain the libraries in Makana and in the whole province. Municipalities have been expected to carry the shortfall, but are battling to make up the difference, Njilo said.
Makana library services only receives about 45 to 50 new books for each of its libraries from the national department each year, which is not enough. They also are under-resourced with regards to computers that are sometimes outdated, old and unusable, Njilo said.
Learners from Fikizolo Primary School in Fingo said participating in the event had been a wonderful experience.
“We came here because Makana Library members invited us to come and play the marimba. We have taken this opportunity not just to come and support them, but also to create exposure for us to be recognized as a marimba band” said learner Asiphesona Magopeni.
Magopeni said they came from a disadvantaged school with a shortage of computers and wifi connections, but that they were happy that library staff had given them forms to register with the library.
“They said they will be able to help us with homework and also make sure we have access to library computers. They are also willing to give them lessons on how to use computer” said Magopeni.
Learner Asigcile Mbane, also from Fikizolo Primary School, said she was disappointed because she had expected to see more people celebrating South African Library Week. “Libraries are made for the people, so they should celebrate them. At school, we do have libraries, but they are not accessible at the moment as there is still work that needs to be done”, said Mbane.
“It is a great thing to have local libraries but we wish we had libraries at school so that in the afternoon we could use them instead of going to the local libraries”, Mbane added. She said that if learners left a local library at closing time during the week, they might be attacked by thieves while walking back home.