Black-owned wine companies will get a foot into the Russian market when a group of importers visit South Africa next week.
As part of our South African Library Week (SALW) celebration, Cape Town Partnership digital editor, Nadia Krige shares how libraries have always been places of comfort for her.
There are few places in the world that offer refuge in the way that rooms full of books do. Not where they’re stacked in a cacophonous clash of genre and title, author and era. These sorts of places are rather disharmonious indeed. Rather, rooms full of books – on shelves – arranged in an order that seems to make some sort of sense.
Like a well-maintained library.
Alkantrant Library, Pretoria
My appreciation for these spaces started somewhere back in early childhood, when every other Saturday, my dad would load my brother and I into our little red Volkswagen beetle and scoot off to the Alkantrant Library in Lynwood (we used to live in Pretoria back then).
Ever in pursuit of raising balanced individuals, my parents set a strict mandate, allowing each of us to take out three story books and three educational ones, with a preferable even split between English and Afrikaans to boot.
Apart from this agreed ratio, we had free reign among the bookshelves, scattering in different directions as we entered – me straight to the kiddies’ fiction where my imagination could take flight, my brother making a beeline for anything that resembled an anthology of arachnology, to feed his mind the freshest spider facts. And my dad? Settled into a comfortable seat somewhere, nose buried in a newspaper, revelling in the knowledge that his offspring were wholesomely occupied for at least the next 20 minutes.
I always loved those outings, wrapped in the cottony quiet of the Saturday morning library, surrounded by what felt like infinite worlds to explore. A blanket fort of possibility that required zero defences; there was more than enough reading material to go around.
Kleinmond Library, Overstrand
Fast forward a couple of years to our new life on the Western Cape’s Atlantic coastline. A frumpy pre-teen, soaked in a particular sort of loneliness that seems to go with the territory, I gravitated toward the local library on those odd afternoons when my mom had to run errands before picking me up from school. I found solace in the Young Adult section, burying my awkwardness in the intrepid adventures of Nancy Drew, Bilbo Baggins and a warrior woman named Paksenarrion.
Ever so often, I’d encounter a classmate or two there, no doubt seeking some sort of escape from whatever pre-pubescent pains were plaguing them, and inevitably we’d become friends.
Sea Point Library, Cape Town
More recent history brought the Sea Point library across my path, offering the kind of sanctuary any freelancer dreams of: somewhere that isn’t home, doesn’t require you to buy copious amounts of coffee to use their space, is soul-soothingly quiet, but still offers some great people-watching opportunities. I’d always set up my make-shift workspace at the table among the travelogues, drawing inspiration from the journeys documented there – and dreaming of my own – simply by reading the names of far-flung places, printed across the spines.
Why libraries are still important
Unfortunately, libraries are not nearly as widely appreciated as they once were. Since the rise of the internet, smartphones and the ability to ‘Google’ any fact within seconds, it often feels like books – in their physical form – have become obsolete.
However, libraries are playing a more important role than ever before in South Africa, as they have the ability to bridge the infamous digital and economic divide. The City of Cape Town boasts 102 libraries, all equipped with computers that offer access to the web via SmartCape for research purposes, as well as three mobile libraries that serve areas that aren’t fortunate enough to have a permanent structure.
While the average middle-class South African, with a stable internet connection and a measure of disposable income, of which a portion can be spent on whatever reading material is of interest, may walk by libraries without a second glance on a regular basis, there are an astounding number of people in our country for whom these places of learning and information are lifelines.
As Ann Patchett once wrote:
“Know this — if you love your library, use your library. Support libraries in your words and deeds. If you are fortunate enough to be able to buy your books, and you have your own computer with which to conduct research, and you’re not in search of a story hour for your children, then don’t forget about the members of your community who are like you but perhaps lack your resources — the ones who love to read, who long to learn, who need a place to go and sit and think. Make sure that in your good fortune you remember to support their quest for a better life. That’s what a library promises us, after all: a better life. And that’s what libraries have delivered.”
So, if you’re still looking for a new year’s resolution for 2017, why not visit your local library and rediscover the magic among its shelves… and maybe even find ways to help make them even more accessible to even more citizens.
: Cape Town Partnership Nadia Krige
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