Johannesburg City Library Upgraded for the New Millennium

Grantees in this story

Model city library transformed with technological upgrades is a community asset and learning center of excellence. 

The Johannesburg City Library celebrated its grand re-opening today. The library has undergone an expansion and modernization of all of its services and user-centred technologies.  

Funded through a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, the upgraded City Library, located in the heart of Johannesburg, will cater to users ranging from parents with young children visiting to select their first picture book, and men and women keeping up with the latest news from around the world, to students and international researchers making use of the special collections of art, music and Africana. 

In 2008, the city—in collaboration with Carnegie Corporation of New York—undertook to upgrade and extend the library, transforming it into a model city library.  

One of the most important impacts of the Carnegie Corporation-supported upgrading is the library’s ability to now offer greatly improved facilities and services to school-age children, many of whom  attend schools without library facilities, according to Rookaya Bawa, a former Carnegie Corporation program officer, and now a consultant to the U.S. foundation. “The library contributes to the country’s long-term efforts to promote social, economic and educational opportunities in a way that will have a positive effect on disadvantaged populations.” 

The modernized library can now accommodate nearly 600 people, compared to 255 in the old facility.  The library’s three new floors include study spaces, meeting and discussion areas, and a computer literacy center.  Elevators and an improved electrical and air-conditioning system will add a greater degree of comfort to the library while helping to preserve the collections.   

The library’s renowned Africana collection, housed in the library’s new section, has a vast amount of material covering all aspects of the history and culture of Southern Africa. It includes manuscripts, maps, private papers, books, pamphlets and photographs. For researchers, there are also collections of materials aimed at preserving the variety of African languages and dialects; literature and ethnology as well as historical material on the Witwatersrand, the country’s main gold mining area, and Johannesburg.  

In addition, the library’s newspaper collection is now more accessible, offering bound and micro-filmed newspapers dating from the early 19th century.  And, the Michaelis art and the performing arts collections provides users’ access to an array of resources in fields including the visual and dramatic arts. 

Apart from the expansion and physical and technological upgrades, a number of changes have been made to allow the library to offer resources to help connect community members with employment information.