Searching for new library models: Two South African case studies of services to youth
South Africa is a youthful society with 54% younger than 24 years. South African young people face disproportionately high rates of unemployment, HIV-AIDS infection, and violent crime. Even in post-apartheid South Africa, the disparities between the historically white and black sectors of schooling are still evident. The implications of the “youth bulge” for South African librarianship are clear. However, public and school libraries face daunting challenges. Fewer than 10% of schools have functioning school libraries and millions of South Africans do not have access to public libraries. Clearly innovative models of service must be found to reach more than the current tiny minority of library users. The paper reports on two case studies of community library services: one a group of dual-use libraries set up in six remote schools as public library “outreach”, and the second a so-called “satellite” library in a township on the outskirts of Cape Town. Their environments and operations are very different; but what they have in common is a willingness to break down conventional barriers and to move into fresh ground. The paper argues that they point to new models of service which, by moving beyond the concept of “outreach”, offer solutions to developing new kinds of library services in South Africa and perhaps in other countries with similar challenges. The sites might well fall short of rigorous international standards but both are imaginative attempts to meet the needs of young South Africans.