Mini Talk Reflection: Regional Libraries in Post-Apartheid Namibia

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Our Social Media Manager, Joyce, attended a recent mini-talk given by the University of Illinois iSchool! The topic was: “Regional libraries in post-apartheid Namibia: Supporting national development goals” with speaker Veno Kauaria. Here are Joyce’s thoughts about the experience:

Hi everyone:

I did get to attend the Mini Talk on Friday. It was very enlightening. The speaker was Veno Kauaria, who is the Deputy Permanent Minister for Lifelong Learning, Arts and Culture in Namibia. I’ll go over a few points that I thought was worth mentioning.

She said that after apartheid ended in 1990, libraries were booming and had a lot of funding. But now, budgets have been declining. Libraries are often the first to be cut from the budget list of governments. I thought that was interesting, given that we face a similar situation here in the States. Another interesting (but sad) fact was that during apartheid, libraries in Namibia were only for whites. Only after apartheid ended were blacks allowed to visit libraries.

Veno also mentioned that one of their recent projects was the development of three regional libraries in poor areas where unemployment is high and a majority of people are under the poverty line. The libraries were very impactful to people living in those communities. Parents, who were mostly domestic workers, could not help their kids after school so they send their kids to the libraries, which offered homework help. Libraries also act as meeting places. Farmers would exchange agricultural information with each other. Now, residents are viewing libraries in a new light, from a place to borrow books to a place where one can accomplish and experience many things.

Veno also commented on librarians in Namibia. She said that every year there are about 20 students who graduate to become librarians in the whole country! :O The profession is not understood very well because many Namibians never grew up with libraries in their communities. Thus, librarians need to be very patient with their patrons and have to be people-oriented. They also need to be knowledgeable of the diverse cultural backgrounds of their patrons.

Hope everyone found this information interesting and fascinating!