Speeches

Launch of National Library Week

13 March 2011

"In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." This was written by Mortimer Jerome Adler born in 1902, an American author and philosopher.

Edward P Morgan, a journalist and writer, said, "a book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy".

Henry David Thoreau, born in 1817, an author, poet and political activist, said, "books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations".

Executive Mayor of Langeberg Municipality,
Head of Department: WC Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport,
Department Officials,
Anita Claasen, librarian in charge of the Robertson Library, staff,
And all the other avid book lovers here today,

Welcome to the opening of the 2011 National Library Week.

The three quotes I just mentioned are among thousands of quotes you can find on the value of books. Books are part of our everyday lives - the Bible, the phonebook, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, an academic textbook or a novel - and libraries are their homes, their careers and their keepers.

From primitive cave paintings, which recorded the early history of civilisation, to the pages of papyrus in Egypt's Royal Library of Alexandria, to one of the first books known to man, the "Diamond Sutra" found in the East, to the first movable-type printing press built by the German Johannes Gutenberg and the first book to be printed using that press, the Gutenberg Bible, books have been the treasure chests of knowledge with which we share our ideas, history, wisdom and lessons with each other.

The Alexandria Library, which is thought to have been the most significant and possibly the greatest library of the ancient world, was a major centre of scholarship since its construction in the 3rd Century BC. That library was sadly destroyed, but many of its texts were saved, and transferred to another library. That library was also burned down and destroyed, but again, the citizens of Egypt saved as many of its valuable texts that they could.

In 2002, as a commemoration and to emulate the original library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina was officially opened near the site of the old library. Just a few weeks ago, that library could have been destroyed and looted during the protests in Egypt. But again, just like during the 3rd Century BC, the citizens of Egypt, mostly youth, committed to protect that which is most valuable to us and risked their lives to preserve centuries old books. The library was also one of the few places left in Egypt that had internet access, a valuable tool to communicate.

I hope that this short tale instils in you the same pride and value that the Egyptians have placed on their libraries and makes you aware that many people have risked their lives to save books. Libraries are an integral part of our lives.

In 2011, I plan to open seven more libraries. These libraries are what we call "wheelie wagons" or mobile libraries, and will be placed in our rural areas to ensure that as many people as possible in our rural areas have access to books.

I have already opened one library this year in the community of Chatsworth. That community now has access to thousands of books for leisure reading, school projects, learning about history, learning to cook, about horticulture, building houses, and just about anything imaginable. Daily newspapers are delivered to the library so the community can stay up to date with the news of the day without paying a cent. All they need is a library card, free of charge!

At that opening, I asked how can one hope to secure a job without the relevant knowledge of the industry or what the job entails? Books offer that opportunity to equip yourselves with knowledge, which is surely the first step to finding meaningful employment. Free access to the knowledge that can lead to employment, how can you not take advantage of that?

On a hot day, when the swimming pools are full, don't forget about the library; it has air conditioning, and all it will cost you to enjoy that air conditioning is to read a few pages of a book, so at the end of the day you will benefit twice!

The Paarl Library will be upgraded this year to the tune of R4 million, Saldanha Bay will hopefully be opening their new library this year too. The City of Cape Town will be opening a new library in Khayelitsha, at Harare Square, and we will be responsible for the running costs of that library.

In my annual budget announcement which I will be making on the 23rd of March, I will provide more detail on the R31.7 million that has been allocated towards libraries, to make sure that they have the best books, the best trained staff and the best facilities for our public to use.

We will also be rolling out internet access to rural libraries in the Western Cape and, by the end of this year, 81 rural libraries will have internet access.

Libraries are an integral part of a community, they are the source of knowledge, the space where learning takes place and creativity shines.

Let your creativity shine and may you gain as much knowledge as your mind can absorb during this, the 2011 National Library Week, and all the weeks, months and years that follow.

Thank you.

Media Enquiries: 

Greg Wagner
Media Liaison Officer
Tel: 021 483 9800