In 2013-2015, the National Library of South Africa implemented the Mzansi Libraries On-Line Pilot Project in partnership with Global Libraries, an initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The focus of the project was to strengthen and enhance Library and Information Services in twenty seven public libraries (three in each of the nine provinces), with the objective of reducing the digital divide, contributing to social cohesion and making a positive difference in the daily lives of these communities. The NLSA subsequently submitted a proposal for an up-scaled programme to Global Libraries and was successful.
The Country Grant also focuses on strengthening local communities through the provision of free access to information, ICT technologies, and relevant training and development opportunities for library staff as well as end-users. Lessons learned from the MLO Pilot Project Training Programme are implemented for improved training curricula and learning experience.
During the pilot, a series of three training academies were held, where a total of forty nine library staff members from the pilot libraries were trained on ICTs (networks, mobile devices, internet, and social media); Advocacy; Impact Planning & Assessment; Professional Development and Library Management; and training as library trainers. The Professional Development and Library Management included soft skills training in marketing and branding; effective communication; professionalism and work ethics; and project management.
This paper will explore the impact that the MLO Training Programme has had on those librarians as well as on people in their professional environment: their colleagues, peers, library users and communities.