Trilogy in Praise of Libraries and those who run them: Part Two

The Amazing Work of the Library Service

In part two of my Trilogy in praise of libraries I talk to Nomaza Dingayo, the Director of the Library Service, Western Cape department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

Nomazo Dingayo

As manager of the Directorate: Provincial Library and Archive Services of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Nomaza Dingayo is responsible  for 232 staff members, inclusive of 11 staff members responsible for the management of the Conditional Grant funding. She also has to manage the budget for the service.

Dingayo explains the mammoth task the Provincial Library Service of the Western Cape has and answers some questions any patron of our public libraries might have.

According to the Western Cape Library Services website

The Provincial Library Service of the Western Cape, in collaboration with local authorities, provides one of the most comprehensive library services in South Africa. By the end of 2003 a total of 263 public libraries and 52 depots (315 in all) were affiliated to the Provincial Library Service.

That is a lot of libraries and sounds like a lot of work. Maybe we can begin with a description of what the Provincial Library does on a day to day basis.
Dingayo: I have attached a document that gives details of day to day work of various sections of the provincial library service. Please click here to view it.

Dissemination of Library Material

It is also stated on the website that “An extensive range of library material is provided on loan to public libraries by the Library Service.”

How is this whole process managed? How do you decide which library gets first choice of books?
Dingayo: Book selection meetings which are attended by book selectors, public and regional librarians, are held twice a month.

  • Prior to this, titles received on approval from vendors registered on Western cape Suppliers’ database, are professionally reviewed with reviews available on the SITA Library Information Management System. 
  • Public librarians send in requests for titles after reading the reviews online or by viewing the books before the selection meeting if they are not able to attend.

All libraries are treated equally, however, where we are able to buy big number of copies of a title, bigger libraries get more copies due to the fact that they have more people looking for that title and have physical space to put more copies.

Procurement, professional and physical preparation of library material is done centrally at provincial library service head office.

Are there libraries that are favoured over others? I know that is a tricky question but maybe you can explain if there is a reward system of sorts – where libraries that perform better are given first choice of library material?
Dingayo: No, no libraries are favoured over others. Libraries are given equal opportunity to give their input on library material according to the needs of their respective communities. Communities differ and their library material needs differ. Our role is to facilitate provision of material to satisfy all information needs.

Performance Management of Libraries

How do you measure different libraries’ performance? How can you tell if certain libraries are performing and others are not?
Dingayo: Some of the measurements used in the library world are membership and circulation statistics.  However, these do not give the true reflection of the performance of a library.

In-house use, which refers to people using the library resources within the library and not taking them out, is a phenomenon that has grown over the years.

People use reference material, read newspapers and periodicals, use internet access and the learners doing school projects. With some socio-economic challenges, some people prefer to use the library for study purposes, and some prefer to read their books of interest in the library and not take them out.
Taking all this into consideration, and the challenges in measuring the “foot print”, it is difficult to measure the performance of libraries. We are still getting circulation statistics but are well aware that the performance is beyond that.
Library patrons using the resources of a library

I once went to a Public Library that I will not name on a Saturday and they were playing Radio Metro loudly. Clearly this is not acceptable. 

If it is noted that certain libraries are not performing well are any remedial measures put in place?
Dingayo: The Western Cape Provincial Library Service, has 15 regional offices.  There are headed by regional librarians who have a responsibility to provide professional guidance and support to the public library staff. Capacity building programmes are provided to help the libraries provide a professional service to their respective communities.  For libraries with challenges, issues are identified and interventions are implemented to help.

Is there a code of conduct for Libraries in place? Or is each library responsible for the manner in which they conduct their services?
Dingayo: The public library staff is appointed by municipalities and they are therefore municipal staff. The code of conduct applicable to municipal staff will be applicable to them as well. Municipalities have their own processes and procedures; rules and regulations for managing of public libraries and their staff.

Money, money, money

You provide the library material on loan to various Public libraries.

Where do you at the Provincial Library Service of the Western Cape get the material? How are you funded? Are Library Services across all provinces funded equally?
Dingayo: Library Service procures library material centrally. Material is sourced through Supply Chain Management processes from library material suppliers registered with the Western Cape Suppliers’ Database.

The provincial library service is a directorate of the provincial department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. We are funded through provincial equitable share. We also receive conditional grant funding from the national department of Arts and Culture.

Funding.

Is it true that public Libraries are funded according to how many books are issued out?
Dingayo: No, it is not true. Libraries are funded according to their different needs and according to what the province can afford at a given time.

Funding. Again.

I am aware that this is a sore issue. An ex librarian told me that it was hard for her to do her job as she had to contend with poor funding.  Her community used her library but they did not necessarily take out books because of their home environments. So on paper it seemed like the library was not being used because of the low numbers of books being issued out.  Yet it was a vital place in the community – more than in David Morris’s words “just books and banks of computers” but a place where individuals gathered to “explore, interact and imagine”.

Does it appear that libraries in under privileged areas continue to struggle?
Dingayo: The issue of insufficient funding versus the growing needs of communities as indicated by the ex-librarian is true.

However, there is a lot that is being done to enhance the public library service. Some of our projects are specifically targeting the under privileged and rural areas. The purpose of the conditional grant funding that we receive from the national department of Arts and Culture is to have transformed urban and rural community library infrastructure, facilities and services (primarily targeting previously disadvantaged communities) through a recapitalised programme at national, provincial and local government level. Projects funded from this grant are doing exactly that.

The aim of the Municipal replacement funding that we provide for the 15 B3 category municipalities is to supplement municipal investment into library services and to sustain the future professional delivery and development of such services in the vulnerable municipalities.

Challenges and getting over them

What is the biggest challenge you face at the Library Service right now?
Dingayo: Funding to comply with the Constitutional mandate

What keeps you getting up every day despite knowing you might face these types of challenges?
Dingayo: Inner satisfaction when a library service is being established in a community for the first time and the joy one observes from the community members. Provision of information resources that satisfy the varying needs of communities. The appreciation by communities for projects that we do in their respective communities e.g. free public internet access. The contribution that we make in education outcomes.

Technology and Change

How has technology changed your working environment?
Dingayo: Technology has really changed our work for the better. We are using Library Information Management System that enables us to trace our 6.6 million library material items.

Availability of internet has helped with research and provision of updated information and therefore enhanced information provision. We will soon be exploring the provision of electronic resources as part of our information provision, and we believe these will complement our book stock.

Use of e-mails which provides for quick responses has significantly contributed to improved service delivery.

Some public libraries have twitter and face book accounts which allow their users to communicate with them and therefore improve services.

Provision of electronic games is also a direct change brought by technology.

Current Projects and Drives

What projects are you and your team at the Provincial library Service currently working on?
Dingayo: We are currently busy with a project that provides free public internet access at public libraries and Library information Management System. This is called the Rural Library Connectivity Project. We are also part of the Broadband Initiative of the province which will increase broadband connectivity for public libraries. We are involved in a project funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation grant for three libraries in Western Cape as part of the pilot project. We are currently exploring the use of electronic resources. We are also busy with a number of new library building projects and upgrading projects.

The library is part of many interesting drives.

Are you going to engage in any activities to promote voter education in the build up to the forthcoming elections? If so please share with us.
Dingayo: Libraries provide information. Some libraries might provide information re: voting dates and voting stations as part of community information provision.

Information For Every Library Patron

 Is there anything you would like the public to know or do to help our public libraries?

TO KNOW

To understand the work and importance of libraries in community development. The contribution that libraries have in improving education outcomes and in economic development.  The fact that library services are provided free of charge, only paying for services like photocopies and printing, but joining and borrowing of library material is free. Libraries serve as community hubs and promote social inclusion. Public libraries provide services for all community members from age 0 to the eldest person alive.

TO DO

  • Become friends of the library. 
  • Protect their libraries from vandalism and any other destruction, e.g. from being burnt during the times of unrest.
  • Volunteer their time by helping in the library.
  • Help in marketing the library.
  • Use their library optimally.
  • Give input in terms of their information and recreational needs.
  • Consider librarianship as a career of choice.


Further Reading

Western Cape Provincial Library Services: Insider’s View

www.capegateway.gov.za/library

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