Legal deposit

2008-07-14 00:00

The recent theft of 19th-century issues of The Natal Witness from the Msunduzi Municipal Library had a happy outcome: recovery of the bound volumes and arrest of a suspect. It also drew attention to the practice of legal deposit.

For nearly 60 years the law has required that a copy of every item published in South Africa must be deposited with five libraries located in Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein — and Pietermaritzburg. This provision forms an important link in the national information system and the right of access to information.

It was thus fitting that solving the crime involved an alert member of the public. Although the cataloguing and storage of a legal deposit collection is a costly business, it is a resource for all the people. And the fact that this material will soon be housed in a refurbished part of the Msunduzi Library is a matter for added satisfaction.

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