Literacy: Challenges for Libraries in South Africa


Vaal River City, the Cradle of Human Rights

Eva Rampa discusses the challanges facing libraries, from the perspective of librarian


Not enough money is allocated to buy books and other reading materials. Good books get stolen and cannot be replaced. There are not enough libraries in communities to cater for our growing population (libraries don’t generate income).


There is a shortage of staff to curb illiteracy among our people. Personnel are unmotivated, untrained, uninterested and underdeveloped, with no skills to teach reading and writing.

School Libraries

This is a challenge as schools do not have well organised libraries. There are no trained teacher librarians to help learners and as a result, these learners flock to the public libraries.


Parents who can`t read and write pose a challenge because they do not allow their children to visit or register at libraries. If parents are reluctant to read, so will their children be. It takes good libraries to root this out through literacy programmes.


Learners themselves are reluctant to learn to read. They are more focused on their cellphones (Mxit, WhatsApp, Facebook etc.) that do not empower and improve vocabulary. Cellphones are good if they are managed properly.

Programmes / Projects

We encounter problems when we have programmes at libraries. The Department of Education does not release learners. If the programme is after school, then learners turn up in very small numbers.

These are the major challenges in our profession and they need serious attention. The main issues to be discussed are:

  • How do we get people to read?
  • Cellphones
  • E-books
  • Internet

There are literacy programmes conducted by different libraries across the country: Spelling Bee, Born-to-Read, family literary programmes, debate, and drama and poetry recital competitions, etc.

* Rampa is a librarian at Vanderbijl Park Library in the Emfuleni (Vaal) Region.

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