New Library Opens in Cape Town

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Corporation Trustee Judge Ann Claire Williams and International Program Vice President Deana Arsenian at the opening of the Kuyasa Library
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Carnegie Corporation of New York’s long relationship with Cape Town, South Africa, took a new turn this year with the opening of Kuyasa library. South Africa’s third largest city and the seat of its National Parliament, Cape Town turned to the Corporation in 2003 for help in transforming its Central Library. The revitalized library — it is directly descended from the first South African Public Library, established in 1818 —  brought affordable computing to the public, among other modern services. It also led in reimagining what a library can do: along with access to books and computers, Central Library has hosted jazz festivals, opera performances, art exhibitions, fashion shows and book launches.

The Corporation also co-funded, with local and international agencies, two model libraries in the township of Cape Town, Khayelitsha, that had lacked such services. The first, on Harare Square, opened in 2011, while the second opened on March 17 in Kuyasa. Both take as their goals the creation of a reading culture and the establishment of a cultural hub where residents of every kind can feel at home learning, socializing, and gaining access to information from around the world. 

“In early 2011, when I visited the newly-opened Harare Library nearby,” the Corporation's Vice President for International Programs Deana Arsenian said at the opening, “I stood on this ground with some of you, imagining a building and its surroundings that were then only an architectural rendering. I have not been here since then, so the transformation of vision into reality seems particularly striking. It shows what can be accomplished with political will, community effort, and public-private funding partnerships.”

Carnegie Corporation of New York trustee Judge Ann Claire Williams also attended the opening, noting that the Kuyasa library “speaks to the essential role of libraries to preserve history, with all its tragedies and triumphs, while also offering a roadmap for the future and for a new democratic society.”