Libraries in Johannesburg continue to face many challenges with no clear resolutions in sight. This sombre conclusion emerged during the Friends of Olivedale Library (Fools) speakers’ morning on October 18, which featured presentations from Johannesburg Libraries officials.
Faith Sixpence, the regional manager for Johannesburg Libraries in Region C, and Jeff Nyoka, the manager of e-learning programs, discussed some of the ongoing online initiatives. However, the prevailing concern among attendees was the potential reopening of libraries on Saturdays, the repair of toilets at Olivedale Library, and the replacement of a small road sign with a larger one.
During a Q&A session, Fool’s chairperson Bette Kun highlighted the importance of weekend library access for working community members and school-goers. Opening libraries on Saturdays would enable fundraising book sales, which support acquiring new books for the library. However, Sixpence explained that a labour dispute regarding staff working overtime has yet to be resolved, preventing a definite answer. She also highlighted various challenges libraries face across the city, such as long-standing maintenance issues, staff shortages, non-functioning facilities, a lack of internet access, and missing signage. Remarkably, only three maintenance workers are responsible for servicing 87 libraries throughout the city, resulting in a significant backlog of tasks.
Kun expressed Fools members’ willingness to volunteer on Saturdays to assist librarians. Unfortunately, both Sixpence and Nyoka admitted that the decision to reopen libraries on Saturdays is beyond their control.
Nyoka gave the audience an overview of the online books and learning resources available through Joburg Libraries’ e-learning initiative. These resources are designed to promote computer literacy, enhance reading skills, encourage entrepreneurship, and improve youth employment prospects, with a particular focus on the elderly.
The Olivedale Library was closed for three months earlier in the year due to an erroneous water bill and was only reopened after the Randburg Sun reported the issue to Joburg Water. Many attendees left the event believing that Olivedale Library, like the other 86 libraries in Johannesburg, has been neglected or overlooked by upper management.
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Photo: Supplied by Randburg Sun