Carnegie Corporation Selects South African Librarian to Head Up African Library Program

Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, announced today the appointment of Rookaya Bawa, a veteran librarian leader with seventeen years of experience in South Africa, as a program officer in the International Development program. 

Bawa will oversee the revitalizing libraries program, which is aimed at strengthening the public libraries system in Africa through capacity building. Recently, Bawa served as the Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Library Service in South Africa. At KwaZulu-Natal, Bawa oversaw a budget of over $5 million, along with a staff establishment of over 230. 

“With the arrival of Rookaya Bawa, we are receiving an accomplished academic who truly understands the demands and needs of the African library system,” said Gregorian. “She has dedicated her career to education and library service, and possesses a vision of what a library can mean in an emerging society. She is a proven leader, a visionary thinker, and a well-known professional on the African library scene. The board and I believe that Bawa’s experience will make a lasting contribution to our work with libraries.” 

“South Africa’s library system is undergoing major changes and working with Carnegie Corporation of New York I am acutely aware I can help create some models for change that will be critical in this time of transition,” said Bawa. “But, what is of particular meaning for me as a librarian, is the opportunity to also work with leaders in other African countries to create models that will bring the ideas, benefits and knowledge within libraries to larger populations.”

Bawa joins a team focused on education in Africa chaired by Narciso Matos and succeeds Gloria Primm Brown who retired from the Corporation earlier this year after more than thirty years of service. Primm Brown, a librarian, opened the Corporation’s library-strengthening program in 1999 and identified the countries where the international development work would be concentrated: Kenya, Botswana and South Africa. Earlier in her career at the Corporation, Primm Brown served as the foundation’s librarian and as a program officer in education shaping its work in teen pregnancy, after-school care and libraries. 

Bawa received her Bachelor of Social Science from the University of Natal in South Africa. She also received a Master of Arts in Education from Durham University in the United Kingdom and a PhD. in Information Studies from the University of Natal. Bawa has been a high school educator, as well as teaching both undergraduates and graduates at the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville. She has also lectured at the University of Durban-Westville’s campus in various information studies and teacher education courses. While at the University of Natal, Bawa helped to establish a new course in school librarianship, media education development as well as establishing and running orientation programs for student intake. She also served as a representative on numerous committees at both the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville, while also acting as an advisor and planner for various local community groups. 

As the Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Library Service, Bawa administered the building and upgrading of over 50 libraries in sub-Saharan Africa. She has delivered talks and produced papers on numerous topics including, “The Future of School Libraries in South Africa,” “The Role of the Public Library in Supporting Education in the Natal region,” and “The Social Responsibility of Educating and Training School Librarians in South Africa.”

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.7 billion on September 30, 2001. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $75 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.