Shelving ahead: the library and the citizen in a democratic society
In the context of contemporary South Africa’s political economy, with its challenges of inequality, education crises, shifts in the governing party and the consequences for these in government, and thus, across the wider state, the role of libraries can be mistaken to be a ‘luxury’. However, the role of libraries, and our conception of what counts as a library, cannot be understated. From the school or community library, to the national archives, the curating of information about our past and our present, and how these will impact on our future possibilities, must be stressed. Libraries are central to reading, which is central to the development of the imagination, and thus to the social dynamics in the country, as well as the relationship between citizens and those they elect to govern and administer in their names. With good libraries, critical citizenship is easier to achieve than without them. This keynote will consider why paying attention to and resourcing libraries and those who work in them are integral to improving life for all of us in South Africa.