Msunduzi News (English)

Msunduzi is gearing up to open its libraries

- By Siyethaba Mhlongo

THE outbreak of Covid-19 affected operations in many sectors as some had to close but since the start of the national lockdown in March the South African government has eased some of the restrictio­ns which allowed some of the sectors to resume work.

Since schools have also reopened with a few grades being allowed to return to class this means that learners will have homework and other academic projects they need to complete. Msunduzi is ready to welcome them to its libraries. Director of Msunduzi Municipal Library Services, Mr Mandla Ntombela, said they have put all the safety measures in place to protect the public and the staff.

“We are ready. Each desk has its own hand sanitiser and we have enough personal protective equipment supply to last us at least eight months,” he said.

He said all the library staff in all the Msunduzi branches will have their own hand sanitisers as well.

Msunduzi Municipali­ty has 11 libraries across the City three of which are mobile libraries which travel to schools and old age homes.

“Our libraries are waiting for the directive from the Minister of Arts and Culture on when to open because they don’t just fall under SALGA but we are expecting to resume operations in July,” said Ntombela.

He said they will also have a special sanitising tunnel that people will have to walk through. “They are using a special chemical which will not make you sick even if you pass your food through it, that’s been tested by the Department of Health. We are doing this because we want to be certain that whoever comes into our libraries will not infect the staff,” said Ntombela.

He said they will limit the number of people allowed inside the library at any given time and some of the chairs will also be removed from the floor to ensure that people adhere to social distancing.

For those who come to do their reading or academic work, Ntombela said there is a designated area that will be monitored by security personnel.

Ntombela said patrons and staff will also have their temperatur­e checked before they are allowed to enter the libraries but the library staff will also do random testing on the visitors any time of the day.

“We don’t yet have the number of the people that will be allowed inside a library at any given time, normally it is 50 but our buildings are big enough and also people who come in use different sections of the libraries but we know that the numbers are properly going to go down compared to what we’re used to.

“It’s going to be on the first come, first served basis but once you are inside we will not put any limitation on the time you get to spend inside because we know that people go to the library because there is a need, some even go there to write their assessment­s,” he said.

Ntombela said anyone who walks into the library will be given a ticket granting them access into the section they want to go to and this will also assist with ensuring that there is no overcrowdi­ng. He said those who just want to come and read, even if it is their own books, will also be allowed.

On the return of library officials

Ntombela said: “For starters we are going to look at those with illnesses and we are going to work with the occupation health department on this one because for example a person might have a problem with their foot but that does not have anything to do with Covid-19 unlike someone who might have a respirator­y disease like asthma.”

On the mobile libraries he said they will still be operating but that will be dependent on whether services such as water are available where they are supposed to go.

“For the library teams going to old age home there’s still a challenge because scientific reports indicate that people over the age of 60 years are vulnerable to Covid-19 so we can’t send our staff there,” he said.

Ntombela said once the libraries start operating the buildings will be sanitised every second day.

Msunduzi’s pride, the Bessie Head Library is amongst the only five Legal Deposit Libraries in South Africa which are responsibl­e for the protection of the country’s heritage. The others are the Bloemfonte­in Public Library in Mangaung, the National Library of South Africa in Pretoria and Cape Town, the National Library for the Blind in Grahamstow­n and Library of Parliament in Cape Town. The Legal Deposit Libraries collect every piece of work that is published in the country and authors also have to give these libraries copies of their work. The Bessie Head Library has works published from as far back as 1830.

Ntombela is also the President of the African Library & Informatio­n Associatio­ns & Institutio­ns which is the body that oversees libraries in 54 countries across the continent and he also has a seat on the African Union.

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