More mini libraries or “Minilibs” are planned to take library services to the partially sighted and blind throughout the Eastern Cape following the success of the first 24 Minilibs installed by the South African Library for the Blind in partnership with the province.
The libraries include a text reader, a computer for access to online resources, and materials including braille books supplied by the SA Library for the Blind (SALB).
The SALB is based in Grahamstown.
“We want to roll Minilibs out to every community,” said Lubabalo Dzedze, library and information services manager at the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture in the Eastern Cape.
According to project coordinator, Pumla Mahanjana, Minilibs are housed in public libraries.
Staff are trained in the use of the equipment and how to assist the visually impaired.
“The visually impaired have a constitutional right to access these services. The project in the Eastern Cape has been so successful that we are hoping it will eventually be rolled out across the country.”
One of the people to have benefited from the use of the Minilib is Sonwabile Dlakavu, who lives in Lusikisiki in the OR Tambo region of the Eastern Cape.
He represents the region in general knowledge quizzes hosted by the department for Minilib users in the Eastern Cape.
Commenting on the opening of the Minilib in Lusikisiki, he says, “We (blind and partially sighted people) are at last able to read and to stay informed of developments. Before the Minilib we had nothing.”
The Minilibs are spread through the rural areas as well as the metros.
“Our partnership with the South African Library for the Blind is making a big difference in the lives of the partially sighted,” said Joseph Lamini, Nelson Mandela Bay metro project manager for library services.
Dzedze says the vision is to have Minilibs wherever there is a public library.
“In terms of the library charter we have to ensure that everyone has access to books and information services – and that includes the visually impaired,” he said.
He was speaking at a Library Week celebration hosted at the Allanridge Library in Uitenhage.