South African Cultural Observatory

Towards tackling inequalities in South Africa: the role of community libraries

BY 26.04.17

A paper recently published by Nampombe Mnkeni-Saurombe from the University of South Africa and Nomusa Zimu from the Human Sciences Research Council on the role of community libraries reports on the Department of Arts and Culture’s conditional grant community library project progress. According to the abstract, tracking inequalities in society remains a serious challenge for post-apartheid South Africa. This battle calls for a multifaceted approach that involves various stakeholders including community libraries. Community libraries are internationally recognised as social institutions that can effect social and economic transformation in society. In South Africa, this is clearly manifested by the provision of a conditional government grant for the development of community libraries in the country. The Department of Arts and Culture started this project in 2007. Despite this recognition for community libraries, their role in tackling inequalities in society is not always clear. Findings from the literature and reports from the Department of Arts and Culture suggest that community libraries are playing an important role in curbing inequalities. This article also attempts to report on the progress of the Department of Arts and Culture’s conditional grant community library project. Though there has been some progress in the project but challenges still exist and more effort and support are required. It is vital that community library services be developed and sustained as these libraries can have a positive influence on the development of society.

Download the full research paper here.

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