Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba on Tuesday extended the operating hours at 10 libraries across the city.
Libraries in Jabavu, Sandton, Orange Farm, Ennerdale, Ivory Park North, Florida, Protea North, Yeoville, City Library and Diepsloot will now be open from 1-5pm on Saturdays, while there are plans to also have the libraries operate Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 8pm and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm.
“When we came into office nearly a year ago, we committed ourselves to prioritising the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens, those who had been placed on the outskirts of policy interventions and service delivery in the past,” Mashaba said on Tuesday.
He said since piloting the project on June 3, more than 2,000 users had benefitted from the extended operating hours.
Mashaba said once the city had ensured compliance with the relevant labour laws, it would operate libraries from Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 8pm and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm.
Mashaba said the extension of the hours would ensuring that the youth, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, had safe learning and studying environments after hours.
“We are taking bold steps to ensuring that the great City of Johannesburg moves forward into an era of sustainable, positive change by building caring, safe and secure communities for all our residents.”
He said that previously libraries were only open during times when most residents were either at school or at work.
“They were thus spaces for the public, yet inaccessible to the public,” he said.
“The extended operating hours at our libraries are also aligned to our plan to create a professional civil service that serves the residents of Joburg with pride.”
Mashaba pointed out that during apartheid times, libraries were active centres for consciousness-raising and resistance.
“They offered safe venues for young freedom fighters to meet and share their ideas.”
He added that the Johannesburg Public Library, now the City Library, had played an active role in challenging the racial divide in most libraries, tracing back to as early as 1905.
“Today, the mandate of our libraries is double-fold – social and political. Now more than ever, in the midst of much turmoil, we need to reflect and decisively engage with our past and what we would like our future to look like,” Mashaba said.
“We, as a responsive and caring local government want to ensure that we create a climate for healthy political deliberation and engagement, and bridge the gap of information poverty.”