Libraries have stood the test of time

2016-05-03 06:00
Simon’s Town library is the oldest public library in Cape Town and has been standing for 135 years. PHOTO: City of cape town

Simon’s Town library is the oldest public library in Cape Town and has been standing for 135 years. PHOTO: City of cape town

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There are 505 years of service among four public libraries in Cape Town.

As World Book Day was observed on Saturday 23 April, the City of Cape Town took the time to reflect on the changing face of their libraries.

World Book Day celebrations aim to raise awareness about the importance of reading, celebrate books, and encourage residents to take care of their library facilities.

From humble beginnings in the 1800s, the City’s four grand old library dames have endured the years. With a little nip and tuck and the occasional facelift, they continue to stand firm and proud.

Simon’s Town Library has been standing for 132 years and started as a subscription service in 1884 from a little room in the municipal building opposite Jubilee Square with a Miss W.G. Gillard as the first librarian.

Simon’s Town is synonymous with the navy and is a popular place to retire. This is reflected in the library’s membership, with the majority of patrons either belonging to the South African Navy or being retired couples who live in the area.

As of last month, there were about 1 500 subscribers with a few members close on 90 years old.

It may be the smallest in terms of physical size, but is the oldest of all the libraries in the City.

The other libraries completing the four dames is Rondebosch Library which is 126 years old, Mowbray Library which is 125 years old and Wynberg Library which is 122 years old. These grand old dames are part of the 104 libraries owned by the City.

“Our libraries of the 21st century have morphed beyond just being places where you come to borrow books. Today, our libraries provide access to electronic resources, magazines and journals, programmes in information retrieval skills, lifelong learning and storytelling. In addition, City libraries function as inclusive cultural hubs and venues for community activities and events,” says Mayco member for community services and special projects, Belinda Walker. Our libraries have a rich history and if they could speak, they would have many stories to share. The libraries have stood the test of time and will continue to do so – well into the future for the next generations.

“In line with our commitment to create an opportunity city, we have ensured that our libraries evolve with the changing times by expanding the services offered to accommodate new channels of information. We are pleased that so many residents make maximum use of the facilities available at their libraries.”

Additional study and reading spaces have been created, and the holiday programmes, storytelling sessions for the little ones, and range of other activities are now an integral part of the City’s libraries.

This is in addition to free internet access for pupils, students and job seekers, or simply for anyone wanting to increase their knowledge.

“The numbers speak for themselves and, contrary to what some sceptics have predicted, libraries are not about to become obsolete – especially with the City adapting and expanding its offering. Libraries will continue to be in existence well into the future,” added Walker.


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