Conveniently located by the commuter bus stop, shopping center, police station and adjacent sports club, Table View Library (TVL) is a huge boon to this ocean side suburb 20 minutes north of Cape Town, South Africa. It’s in a lovely relaxed area, close to stunning white sand beaches with massive waves. The enormous Rietvlei Nature Reserve with its flamingo and pelican flecked lagoons is just a short walk away.
The location originally opened as a branch of the library in neighboring Milnerton in January 1991 and around 1994 became part of the Blouberg (aka Blaauwberg) Council. Designed for lending and returning items, it really has no work area, but in 2007 an addition brought the total space to 545 square meters (almost 5900 square feet).
TVL shares the property with Virgin Active, a health and sports club who has a 99 year lease from the City of Cape Town and maintains the grounds and exterior. There’s a large parking lot with a “Moms & Tots” spot right up front, and an after hours return slot.
I entered the facility via a pretty room with floor to ceiling windows, chairs and plants to reach a glass partitioned tiled vestibule where the “Educate yourself @ your library” campaign is immediately apparent…
… as mortarboards hang from the ceiling, a pyramid spells out “Educate” and artwork on the panes emphasize the theme. Chalkboards propped up on a long white bench advertise DVDs and the pamphlet collection.
Part of the vast (encompassing 100 libraries, plus a mobile service and three satellites) City of Cape Town Library and Information Services (CCTLIS), TVL serves a multicultural population and has materials in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa (pronounced Koza, it’s a delightful sounding language that includes “click” consonants). Residents live in townships, apartments, houses, or mansions in gated communities.
Greeted by friendly staffers, I was directed to Linda Barnard, the Principal Librarian, who’s been here since the beginning. She told me the library is supported as a part of one of six districts of the City of Cape Town and is open 45 hours per week.
Most items come from the provincial library service (which has a selection of foreign titles too) but TVL’s collection is supplemented by a small budget from the local council so they can purchase some things themselves (besides the three primary languages, they also stock some Zulu books).
“Underdeveloped” areas (aka townships) are allotted additional monies since circulation doesn’t reflect the heavy usage. In these desperately poor places the library is often the only place to get online or study and read in a relatively safe and quiet environment. They also have a number of unattended children so have many more activities for kids as well as extra study space.
Despite serving a township, TVL doesn’t qualify for the extra funds as many of its residents are relatively well off. But their circulations stats are in the top ten of all the CCTLIS locations and they are very busy, especially on Saturdays when working people have more time to visit.
Luckily (due to space concerns) two thirds of their materials are almost always out (during the December and January holidays they have to store excess books in boxes on top of the shelves, so they weed like crazy and everything has gone out at least once within the last year), though even now, some hardbacks are shelved on top of the cases. TVL gets lots of donations too and sells some of them.
Yet TVL still has time to win accolades. In 2008 they won an Annual Cultural Award from the Western Cape Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and in 2011 and 2012 came in second in the competition Cape Town holds for displays in libraries. They won’t participate in 2013, however, as the library that won first prize the last two years won’t be entering, so TVL, with a strong sense of fair play, feels others should get a chance to win.
The theme for 2011, “Be Practical and Creative @ Your Library”, used Creativitrees 😉 to promote materials and services. On a big tree painted onto their front picture window, each leaf was inscribed with a service.
In 2012, film strips provided a background for displays all over the library that highlighted people improving themselves with the help of TVL’s resources. One even features a staffer developing from Security Guard to Library Aide to Assistant Librarian!
TVL has a book club, Spine Crackers, who meet after hours so that they can discuss books without the buzz of people in the library. A staff member donates her time to come in and run the club – Linda stressed that staff here are very willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and though they aren’t paid for it, put in lots of extra hours.
Though wifi isn’t available yet, patrons can access one of the five ADSL broadband public internet computers for free for up to 45 minutes per day. Near the terminals, there’s a reference section with a good Xhosa Reference Librarian who, of course, also speaks English.
It’s a cheerful, bustling place with paintings and posters decorating the walls. High windows and ceilings give the illusion of spaciousness.
And from one window, there are views of Table Mountain across the sports grounds.
Currently they use barcodes to check items out. CCTLIS is looking into RFID as automation would be more cost effective and would free up staff to provide outreach to the area. During Library Week the Children’s Librarian tells stories in the schools, but since most schools have no library, they’d love to be able to visit more frequently and go to the crèches (child care facilities) and preschools (though orientation classes for school groups are offered by appointment).
Materials have security strips and as they have a guard, the security gates are actually used (the windows are locked since at one point, youngsters were throwing things to their friends outside).
Besides books, TVL offers CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and graphic novels. DVDs are arranged by category, such as South African films (e.g. Spud and District 9), TV shows, documentaries (videos about townships)… Except for the latest issue, magazines can be checked out. Adults can borrow up to seven books, three CDs and two DVDs at a time and fines are low – one rand (about ten US cents) per week for a book – and there’s an amnesty period during the Annual Public Library Week.
TVL offers service to retirement homes and limited help to shut-ins. They have literacy materials, Groot Druk (large print) books, and two photocopiers for public use. New books are conveniently put on a cart, below photocopies of high demand titles that are checked out.
Two of the CCTLIS libraries in the city have ebooks and some have puzzle or toy collections. By paying a small reservation fee, customers can borrow from any of the other Cape Town locations or the provincial libraries (via an interlending service) which can be searched through Sabinet. And Sabinet gives residents access to a wide variety of electronic publications in several languages.
A few of the libraries have lecture theatres or activity rooms which can be rented at a very low cost or no charge to community groups, while businesses pay a higher tariff.
Their active Facebook page celebrates the Friends of the Library group (they help mend and shelve items, assist with programs…) and promotes upcoming events, reading programs and new acquisitions. I love that one of the profile pics is of a Christmas tree made from green volumes.
Weekly storytimes are held in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa and during school holidays there are additional events for students – the Facebook site has loads of photos of kids having a grand time making and flying kites, creating pinwheels, playing outdoor games and practicing their football (soccer) skills in the fields outside. Other pictures show the fun to be had at storytimes, craft events (many with a green theme – like making toys from plastic and cardboard, or presents for your folks from old shirts) and book club parties.
In the Children’s Section, colorful homemade posters encouraging reading adorn the end panels while bookmarks, a paper birthday cake for Spot and butterflies ingeniously made from plastic bags and pipe cleaners decorate the walls above kid’s magazines like the Afrikaans language Hoezit! Cloth covered tables showcase picture books, as do the tilted shelf tops and stuffed animals are everywhere.
The government realizes that women have been overlooked in South Africa, so there are often racial and gender quotas for people in certain positions and there’s lots of emphasis on women and against violence towards women and children. In keeping with this admirable philosophy, each year TVL has events for women and kids with demonstrations of dances, talks on healthy eating… and they invite local businesses to exhibit their products.
The people here really appreciate all the library has to offer and recognize that it is an important and vital member of the town of Table View.
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While on this trip, I chanced upon two other interesting libraries.
Today, this township library only has two computers and no wifi but the nearby church has a computer room. Soon a ten million Rand (over one million US dollars) facility will be built, but for now the location is well used – they often push shelves aside to present puppet shows for the kids and loads of people study here.
And making a connection in the Netherlands…
… I was delighted to see the Airport Library at Schiphol. It has wifi, reading materials, an upper floor with a sleeping area for the tired traveler, and Ipads preloaded with pages on Dutch culture and tourist information attached to cushy armchairs.
Also, this month I’m participating in a promotion about all the cool things librarians do called…