DSRAC fails community libraries

The Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture has failed dismally in meeting its targets for its community libraries programme in the province.

The recently tabled 2017/18 Annual Report shows that of the 10 000 additional curriculum learner support materials that were supposed to be purchased to assist learners, the department only managed to purchase 296. That is 9 733 less than their intended target.

The department further failed to provided 16 196 of its targeted key library materials intended for community libraries and did not deliver on the construction of two new libraries that had been budgeted for.

I have previously reported on the department’s failure to secure an ICT contractor and as a result, not one library in the province was equipped with ICT even though the department intended to provide 26 libraries with ICT infrastructure.

Libraries should be a means to bridge the digital divide. For the thousands of South Africans who do not have access to computers and the internet, community libraries should provide access to books, computers and the internet in order for people to access opportunities.

As digitalisation advances, employment opportunities become increasingly confined to the internet. When libraries do not afford people access to the internet, people are essentially blocked from possible future employment opportunities.

The annual report also indicated a surge in the number of patrons requiring library facilities. The report showed an increase from 242 281 in 2016/17 to 336 213 patrons for 2017/18. It is clear that more people require library services yet the Department is struggling to provide these essential services.

There is blatant mismanagement in the department. It is failing in its mandate to provide quality library services to the people of this province and the DA will ensure that the Department is accountable for its failures.

The DA realises that people need well equipped and functioning libraries with qualified staff. We recognise libraries, not only as place for recreational reading but also as a hub of socio-economic opportunity.