For the love of public libraries: 5 interesting facts


If you haven’t visited your local library for a while, now’s the time to go!

From 18 – 26 March, South African Library Week (SALW) will be taking place across the country to celebrate the important role libraries still play in a democratic society.

While this may seem odd, as so many of us may have all the knowledge we need (or so we think) at our fingertips, libraries remain one of the institutions that most actively advance literacy, help realise freedom of access to information (a basic human right) and, essentially, promote tolerance, respect and equality among South Africans.

This week, libraries across Cape Town will be hosting a number of special events in the hopes of reconnecting to readers and those in the making.

Here are a few interesting facts about SALW and Cape Town’s libraries to keep in mind when you go:

  • Where it all started

The South African Public Library, now known as the National Library of South Africa (Cape Town) was the first library to be established in South Africa.  This was done by a government proclamation on 20 March 1818. So, in 2001, the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) decided to commemorate this important step toward a more informed society by announcing that henceforth, libraries will enjoy a national week of celebration around 20 March every year.

  • Human Rights Day

What makes this time of year even more perfect for a celebration of libraries is the fact that it coincides with Human Rights Day (21 March). Our Bill of Rights, of course, recognizes the freedom of access to information as a basic human right, which is something South African libraries fight tooth and nail to protect.

  • Theme

Every year, library week is defined by a specific theme. This year’s theme is: “My Library, Your Library“ with sub-themes: “My Library, My Home”, “Mind your Library” and “Tell me about your Library”.

  • Number of public libraries in Cape Town

The City of Cape Town has 130 facilities on record – this includes both mobile and established libraries.

  •  Fine-free!

We know you’re not a bad person, but seriously, that library book gathering dust at the back of your shelf just so you don’t have to see it? The one you borrowed in 2013 and never returned because you’re equal parts ashamed of yourself and afraid of the massive fine?

Well, good news! Library Week coincides with Fine-free Week, which means you can finally shrug that burden off your shoulders free of charge. We can’t guarantee that the librarian won’t judge you just a little, though. So, be brave. Be Strong. And return that damn book.

A few of us here at Cape Town Partnership have a particularly soft spot for libraries and decided to put our appreciation in words. Click through to our stories below: 

  • A precocious reader – Maxine Case shares her fondest memories of fortnightly trips with her mom and older sister to their local library.

Leave a comment below to tell us about your love of public libraries!

Featured image: Jamie Taylor/StockSnap

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