The City of Johannesburg have launched extended hours at 10 city Libraries to assist that our youth, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, have safe learning and studying environments after hours.
When Herman Mashaba and his team came into office, nearly a year ago, they committed themselves to prioritising the poorest and most vulnerable of Johannesburg citizens; those who had been placed on the outskirts of policy interventions and service delivery in the past.
“As residents of this great City of ours, you elected an administration that would do more than give lip service to your concerns, and actually do something. We are committed to rebuilding your trust in government, and have tailored our policy and budget offerings to focus on the poorest and most vulnerable of our residents.”
The city have just announced that they are extending operating hours at 10 of the regional libraries which include:
- Orange Farm
- Ivory Park North
- Protea North
- City Library
The extension of these operating hours will see libraries open on Saturdays, from 1pm to 5pm. Once they have ensured compliance with the relevant labour laws, the city will also open libraries from Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 8pm and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm.
This will go a long way in ensuring that our youth, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, have safe learning and studying environments after hours. Since piloting this project on the 3rd of June 2017, more than 2000 users have benefitted from the extended operating hours.
“We are taking bold steps to ensuring that the great City of Johannesburg moves forward into an era of sustainable, positive change by building caring, safe and secure communities for all our residents.”
“Until now, our libraries were open during times when most of our residents were either at school or at work, vying for a better life for themselves. They were thus spaces for the public, yet inaccessible to the public.”
For long, residents have been forced to choose between survival and dignity, and the city is working hard to ensure that the most vulnerable no longer have to make this choice. The budget as a City also includes funds for other necessities such as extended hours at clinics, so that residents do not have to take time off of work to take care of their health.
“The extended operating hours at our libraries are also aligned to our plan to create a professional civil service that serves the residents of Joburg with pride. In supporting the extension of operating hours, our library staff are leading the way in ensuring that we do more for our residents.”
Public libraries have always carried the huge responsibility of providing free and equal access to information. They thus play an integral role in ensuring a flourishing democracy. Of course, due to our history, black people were barred from using certain libraries, and libraries in black areas such as townships were under resourced to ensure the further marginalisation and isolation of black people from the information economy. In this sense, during the apartheid era, libraries were seen as instruments of state control.
Ironically, libraries were also active centres for consciousness-raising and resistance to apartheid. They offered safe venues for young freedom fighters to meet and share their ideas.
The Johannesburg Public Library, now the City Library, played an active role in challenging the racial divide in most libraries, tracing back to as early as 1905. The South African Library Association also promoted equitable library services for black people, and recommended more open access to libraries, as well as better supply of study material for black students. Of course, the apartheid government’s response was lackluster and uneven.
Today, the mandate of our libraries is double-fold: social and political. We are at a delicate time in our democracy, and the past couple of years have left us at an emotional, economic and development impasse.
“It is clear that our thinking about what democracy means will have to change. Now more than ever, in the midst of much turmoil, we need to reflect and decisively engage with our past and what we would like our future to look like.”
“We, as a responsive and caring local government want to ensure that we create a climate for healthy political deliberation and engagement, and bridge the gap of information poverty. We also want to instil a culture of reading in our communities, because a well-informed and well-read city is a progressive city.”
“It has been clear from the very beginning, that without deliberate action, this City will continue to live below its potential as the economic heartbeat of South Africa, and the African continent at large.”
“Over the years, we have seen government neglect the poor and most vulnerable in our communities, but a new dawn has come in the City of Johannesburg: our pro-poor agenda will ensure that we address our people’s most pressing needs and ensure that everyone has access to quality services. Ours is a government that works for the people and not the other way round.”
“I would like to urge all our residents to make use of these extended operating hours, and to take care of our libraries.”