Beacon for knowledge

2016-04-19 06:00
Library staff who are always ready to help you as they celebrate their 110 year of existence are, back from left, Merle Lubinsky (assistant librarian), Mary-Jane (Bassie) Magano (assistant librarian), seated are, from left, Cleolaine Delmore (librarian), Nadia Ismail (senior librarian) and Lauren Lengeveldt (assistant librarian).

Library staff who are always ready to help you as they celebrate their 110 year of existence are, back from left, Merle Lubinsky (assistant librarian), Mary-Jane (Bassie) Magano (assistant librarian), seated are, from left, Cleolaine Delmore (librarian), Nadia Ismail (senior librarian) and Lauren Lengeveldt (assistant librarian).

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To say that the library in Observatory has seen its fair share of readers is an understatement – it’s more than a 100-years-old and still going strong.

After 110 years of serving the community around it, the City’s Observatory Library is still a beacon for residents seeking relaxation, knowledge, information, social interaction and a safe space.

“Our libraries culturally enrich the communities in which they are located and the Observatory Library celebrates 110 years of being a focal point in the area,” says the City’s Mayoral Committee member for community services and special projects, Belinda Walker.

“It has become a safe and free space for young and old.”

The library opened on 1 November 1898 in temporary premises in Station Road when James Davidson was appointed librarian. It moved to its current premises, a purpose-built facility in 1906. This was thanks to the gift of land by Stephen Trills, as well as government and municipal subsidies and donations. In 1952, a free municipal library service was started by the City of Cape Town, and Observatory Library joined the service on 24 March 1954.

The current building enjoys heritage status and contains a plaque as a war memorial dedicated to the men of Observatory who served in World War II.

The library is also used by a social worker for a support group meeting and another patron runs a jewellery workshop every Tuesday. Basic computer lessons take place on Tuesday mornings during alternate months for members who want to enhance their skills.

In addition, library orientation is offered to interested groups, while a permanent book sale in aid of the efforts made by the Friends of the Library organisation is situated in the foyer. Other programmes include a “beanies for babies” project, where residents get together with their wool and knitting needles to make beanies for needy babies. These go to Mowbray Maternity Hospital and all the way to Victoria West.

“Observatory Library levels the playing field, offering vital resources as well as specialised programmes to empower the surrounding community,” adds Walker.

Just before it opened in its current premises 110 years ago, the library had 3359 books, a circulation of 8541, with 197 subscribers.

Now five members of staff, excluding the security guard and a contract cleaner, keep more than 1800 patrons happy and 25 328 items in circulation. This includes an extensive crime fiction stock of books as well as a near 500-strong DVD collection.

“Public libraries are an essential cornerstone of building strong communities. Not only do they provide an essential service in supporting education and literacy, today’s libraries also offer innovative technology and online services that can unlock a host of opportunities.

“We should never underestimate the social, cultural and educational importance of our libraries. We celebrate the 110 years during which Observatory Library has provided these important services.

“This library is more popular than ever before and 163 new members joined between July 2015 and February 2016,” concludes Walker.

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