Towards a transformed library and information sector in South Africa: rethinking roles

  • Gavin Davis Library and Information Science, University of the Western Cape
Keywords: Transformation, public libraries, library and information services (LIS), democracy, library professional


The paper examines the current state of libraries in South Africa. It draws on the states role in the provision of library services since South Africa became a democracy in 1994. There seems to be a worrisome aspect that the place of public libraries within local and provincial governments is in a state of uncertainty. Hence the urgency with which the National Council for Library and Information Services (NCLIS) is approaching the problem by having appointed a technical team to develop broad legislative and policy guidelines for the transformation of the library and information services (LIS) sector. The focus of the paper is rather on an argument for a rethink of the role of libraries and librarians within the local and provincial context. It is the authors contention that the services of a library should contribute towards the quality of life, that is, the library should play a role in education, the promotion of moral values, the eradication of illiteracy, the alleviation of poverty and assisting in the quest for knowledge and the promotion of democracy in society. The whole notion of democracy needs to be deconstructed. Certain objectives need to be set in order to attain this aim of the library, namely, the library should foster and provide certain facilities for the development of individuals and groups at all levels of education, for example, a study area and an activity room or auditorium; the library should be accessible to the user to fulfil his/her information needs, in the quickest possible time; the library should be a main centre for the promotion and appreciation of all arts so that cultural life can be enriched; the library should play a positive part in the encouragement of active usage of leisure and recreation time. This calls for a well informed and empowered library professional. Although the concept of library professional is used somewhat loosely here, library workers in general should not be excluded when library services are rendered.
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