Libraries & The Bookery

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In the Campaign for School Libraries, led by Equal Education, thousands of high school learners, teachers and parents have made a commitment to ensuring that the government provides every school in the country with a fully functioning library. EE has been flooded with hundreds of thousands of letters and petitions in support of these objectives from Makhado in Limpopo to Manenburg in the Western Cape, from Soweto in Gauteng to Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. EE’s Policy, Communication and Research (PCR) department  has concentrated much of its effort on researching the benefits of every public school in SA having a functional library that is adequately stocked and staffed by a qualified librarian.

Since South Africa’s democratic transition, the right to education for all has been a key legislative priority. Apartheid created a deeply fragmented education system. Black schools, the majority in both urban and rural areas, were left under-resourced. Only 8% of public schools in South Africa have functional libraries. These are almost entirely situated in former model C schools which have the resources to stock and staff these facilities. Approximately 20,000 schools are without libraries, thereby denying their learners access to regular reading opportunities.



For over two decades international research has shown that school libraries are beneficial to the progress and academic development of learners. In a major international study, for instance, researchers concluded that a stocked, staffed and fully-funded library in operation within a school alone improves students’ reading performance by as much as 8%. Beyond direct academic benefits, libraries offer social advantages too.

In EE’s own research, over 50% of learners identified school libraries as places where they would do homework and study for exams. A grade 8 learner at a high school in Khayelitsha, noted some of difficulties he faces when resorting to public libraries. “We wait in queues and are given a few minutes to do our research. We have to walk long distances to get there and along the way there are often gangs who take our money.” In communities where homes lack books and quiet spaces, school libraries offer stable sites for learning. The provision of a well-stocked and appropriately staffed library will not only aid in the development of basic reading skills but instil a love of reading in our youth.



We have focused on four key elements: infrastructure, materials, librarianship training and remuneration of librarians. EE’s PCR department produced a blueprint design of a suitable school library. This structure recognises the essential functions of a school library, beyond that of mere book storage. It maintains an environment that is both welcoming and quiet, where learners can study as well as read for pleasure. The IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto (2006) stipulates that a school library should hold at least ten books per learner. However, given the extreme shortage of library resources in South Africa, EE has instead called for three books per learner. Library materials aren’t limited to just books, and include visual and digital media, and other learning aides. Once initial collections are acquired they can be maintained by ring-fencing 10% of each schools LTSM allocation.

During the early 1990s school librarianship was a viable choice as a profession; however, today there isn’t a recognised salary for a school librarian or library administrator in the Occupation Specific Dispensation for the teaching profession. There are currently only two universities in South Africa where teacher-librarian training programmes are available: the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Western Cape both offer Advanced Certificates in Education with library specialisations. The limited number of courses available is indicative of the absence of school librarian posts. Greater employment opportunities will stimulate greater demand for training.

Our research considers two viable options for employing librarians, the first being a library administrators who has completed the equivalent of one year of university training, and the second being a fully qualified librarian who has completed the equivalent of a 3 year university degree in library and information science.



The provision of school libraries in all South African schools is not only necessary, it is also possible. Equal Education has calculated the total costs of a national roll-out of functional libraries in all ordinary public schools. These costs can be divided into four categories and, based on the most recent government statistics, are as follows: infrastructure, which consists of the furnished library structure itself (R7.92bn); books and materials (R1.98bn); librarian training (R0.35bn); and librarian salaries, a continuous annual cost which varies according to the level of qualification (between R1.19bn and R2.67bn).

To put these figure into perspective, it is interesting to compare them to what spent on stadiums for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. R13.61bn was spent on the 10 World Cup Stadiums. For this price the government could build, stock and staff 20,000 school libraries. Our research indicated that it is possible for the government to phase in functional school libraries countrywide. If the early provisions of infrastructure, materials and training were put into operation over ten years, their costs are less than 1% of the education budget for that period. Thereafter, only salary costs would remain, which on its own would amount to between 1% and 2% of the education budget.



The KwaZulu-Natal School Library policy aims to:

  • guide the development of effective school libraries in the province
  • function at both the level of governance as well as implementation
  • support the full range of stakeholders in the school library field in the province

The policy proposal was drafted by a group of specialists and professionals in the school libraries field in KwaZulu-Natal. It was circulated for comment to a range of other specialists in the province, as well as in other provinces. A smaller task team finalised the policy document.


The policy draws on education legislation and policy documentation that, directly or indirectly, influences the establishment and development of school libraries in South Africa (Annexure C).


The policy identifies three models of library development for the establishment of school libraries in the province. The proposed models respond appropriately to the socio-economic realities of KwaZulu-Natal, and aims to implement equity and redress historical imbalances:

  • classroom libraries, including shared classroom libraries
  • permanent or mobile library collections of various types serving clusters of schools
  • centralised school libraries


The teacher-librarian plays a key role in the establishment and successful implementation of an information literacy policy within a school, and in the integration of print, non-print and ICT resources in classroom teaching and learning. The teacher-librarian should:

  • develop, jointly with the educator team, and drive the implementation of a whole school information literacy policy
  • chair the school library committee set up to
  1. develop a management policy for the school library
  2. ensure that services are accessible to all members of the school community
  3. determine and secure an adequate budget for the school library
  4. select suitable resource material to develop a balanced library collection that will serve the needs of all its users
  • be part of the school’s management committee
  • perform the following roles within the school:
  1. Information specialist (with specialist knowledge and experience of ICT)
  2. Library manager
  3. Curriculum and literature enrichment specialist working with the educator team

The policy recommends a range of minimum norms (or quantitative measures) and standards (or qualitative benchmarks) for the establishment of school libraries. The standards and norms relate to both the planning and management of school libraries and the provision of furniture, equipment and resources.


The policy will be reviewed at regular intervals, especially during the implementation phase, to ensure that it remains relevant and addresses provincial school library development needs.

KwaZulu-Natal School Library policy

Correspondence With Government



Equal Education                                                                    2010-08-23 Khayelitsha     For attention: Doron Isaacs     A big thank you from the GDE: Library Unit and Library Facilitators in districts for the excellent work EE is doing. We appreciate EE’s hard work and commitment to education.   The lack of a National School Library policy is serious and constantly needs to be under the attention of government. Absence of school libraries has a  negative effect on teaching and learning, and we experience it first hand in Gauteng schools.   You are an extension of our hands and we applaud the way in which you address this crucial matter.





Thursday, 22 April 2010 14:27 Letter to Bobby Soobrayan 2 March 2010 2 March 2010





To view the original letter click here 8 September 2009 RESPONSE TO WCED ANNOUNCEMENT ON LIBRARIES   Dear Mr Schreuder, Equal Education and the Campaign for School Libraries 1. Equal Education [EE] is a movement of learners, parents, teachers and community members working for quality and equality in South African education, through analysis and activism. 2. Presently, we are engaged in a Campaign for School Libraries. The campaign is explained during the course of this letter. We would welcome to opportunity to meet with you and brief you more fully. 3. Over 17,000 people have signed the petition attached as an appendix to this letter. These will be handed over to a representative of the national Department of Education on September 22, after the Walk for School Libraries. 4. Many seminars, marches, pickets and countless meetings, involving hundreds of people, have gone into building this campaign, and will continue to sustain it. 5. It will continue until such time as there is agreement on a national policy on school libraries, on the basis of the progressive realisation, within a reasonable time frame, for the provision of a library for every school.

The Bookery

On 1 March 2010 a new project was launched at 20 Roeland Street, Cape Town: ‘The Bookery- Home of the Equal Education Book Drive’. The Bookery is a depot where books suitable for either primary or secondary school learners can be donated. With the help of a committed team of volunteers, donated books that are up-to-date and in good condition are sorted, shelved, covered, labelled and catalogued using the latest computer software. The Bookery is now independent, a sister organisation to EE.



The staff and volunteers use a 2 pronged approach. They actively identify schools which would benefit from the Bookery Project as well as have an open application process. All schools considered have two basic elements: an existing formal structure which will be used exclusively for the purposes of a library (i.e. it must fall into the 13% of public schools in South Africa with an existing library space but no books); and a member of staff committed to taking on the role of librarian. During the collection process, The Bookery team works closely with the librarian-in-waiting, as well as learners and other educators from the school. This allows them to better gauge the appropriate levels and areas of interest required by the school’s readership.

Each library established by The Bookery contains a minimum of three books per learner, and caters to the needs and interests of the school’s readership through a comprehensive selection of fiction, non-fiction and reference works. Established libraries are suitably furnished (allowing for space for future growth). The Bookery ensures that it contains a computer with the appropriate software, and that it is a warm and inviting space.