The Sobering Thought, or That Sinking Feeling - 15th LIASA Conference, Day 1

The truth is this....
I don't think Cape Town has the best library service in the country any more.
I've declared it quite loudly on twitter, and have had enthusiastic kudos which I freely admit I reveled in like a large mammal in an appropriately matching habitat. 
But my bubble has been irrevocably burst by the Liasa Conference Plenary session number 2 (plug: Number Two is always better that One).
And the burster of said bubble is the Kwa-Zulu Natal Public Library Service.

So how did they do it, you might ask? Well they didn't use a long pointy stick.
The did it by being librarians. And:
Opening new beautiful libraries that are each unique and distinct.

With Books, and staff.
Revamping old libraries into spaces conducive to studying.

Free Internet, with assisting assistants.
Coming to 'terms' with the Local Authority in a responsible adult-like manner.
Meeting users needs, which translates to play area's for job seekers with kids, educational toys to encourage skills development and *sigh* consoles (Nintendo Wii etc)

Granted all these things do not add up to 'We are not the best anymore.'  No, what adds up to 'We are not the best anymore' is the fact that there are queues of kids and parents waiting to get into the libraries.
People queuing to get into libraries not because its opening time but because the inside is that busy!

The local libraries in this province are  not as busy as they once were, local librarians have indicated that they've seen a significant drop of patronage and in the light of KZN's successes when we have the same resources at our disposal, its making me ponder a few things:
Why was there only one library built in the last 5 years in this Province?
Did we lose our drive when we stopped needing to justify our existence to the Local Authority?
Do we now just do the things we do, to tick of the little boxes and collect the pay at the end of the month?
Has strong leadership and an adherence to Local Authority dogma stifled all creativity and passion in the rank and file?

Hopefully by the end of the conference I will get these answers, but it still doesn't change the fact that we are not the best Public Library Service in Cape Town anymore.



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