Libraries of the future: the South African School Librarians’ Conference

| September 9, 2019 | 0 Comments


The South African School Librarians’ Conference was hosted by St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown from 28 June to 2 July 2019. The central focus of the conference was ‘The library of the future’.

On 29 June. Alan Thompson, the headmaster of St Andrew’s College, and Vuyokazi Jamieson, conference convenor and librarian at the college, welcomed a room full of over 110 delegates from all over South Africa and neighbouring countries. Keynote speaker, Ron Starker, travelled from Singapore to deliver his address. He is the author of Transforming Libraries: A Toolkit for Innovators, Makers and Seekers.1 Currently working as a librarian at the Singapore American School,2 he is the developer of the Connections Project, which supports the incorporation of innovation centres within school libraries. Starker took conference delegates on a journey of duality between the physical library and the cyberlibrary, stating the challenges that exist for libraries everywhere and asking whether libraries are necessary in the digital age.

Diverse presentations and clarion calls

Among the presenters were several St Andrew’s College teachers delivering papers and workshops with intriguing titles such as: ‘Reading the reader; the reader reading you…’ and ‘The boy in the library’. Roy Hobson presented his paper via video conference from Montreal, Canada, where he was delivering a paper at the International Boys’ Schools Coalition conference.3 His paper, entitled ‘Putting an ampersand in IT: information and technology partnered in the library’, was based on the following thesis: too often, the information technology (IT) team is called in when the plans are drawn, the concrete is set and the paint is already dry at a new library. Jamieson’s paper, titled ‘Back to the future: looking back and finding a way forward’, focused on the following ideas: amid evolving technology, libraries have stood the test of time. With this in mind, how do we ‘future-proof ’ our libraries? Jamieson heads up the Cawse Library at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown. Melanie Webb gave an account of her teaching experience as the head of a rural Zambian school in Livingstone. She is currently an English teacher at St Andrew’s College. Two teachers from the Diocesan School for Girls (DSG), Grahamstown, were also part of the conference. Bridget Webster, the director of English at St Andrew’s College and DSG presented a paper titled ‘Reading rocks!!! Strategies to get school kids reading!’ Cynthia Gambiza-Nyama, senior school librarian at DSG since 2014, presented a paper titled ‘Promoting reading in the digital age – learner-championed reading’. Gwendolyn Johnson, who runs her own business, Tutor-Gap, asked librarians to engage more with children with dyslexia, often seen as a barrier to literacy.

What the students had to say

What was unique about this conference was that students also delivered presentations. Daniel Roodt, who heads up the Reading and Watching Club at St Andrew’s, wowed the audience with his presentation, titled ‘INNOVATION: encouraging students to read’. Ayomide Israel-Akinbo, Africa Matshingana and Jacob Erasmus introduced themselves as members of the St Andrew’s Interact Club. They partner with state school Nombulelo Secondary School,4 also located in Grahamstown, and have been helping to renovate the Nombulelo school library for the last 10 months.

Creating an air of mystery

Two young and upcoming St Andrew’s authors, Liam McNaughton and John Marshall, both in Grade 9, formed part of the Author Panel Interview on 30 June. The pair are the coauthors of a fiction series called The Unkindness of Ravens. They are in the middle of writing book 1 of the series, called Let Them Eat Cake. Iviwe Gontshi, a DSG Grade 9 student, also joined the panel of authors on 30 June. She told the audience about her novel, entitled Independent Me, which is about a girl who realises that she is too dependent on others, so she decides to become more independent. The conference ended with an ‘Around the World’ dinner. The best dressed delegate at the dinner was selected by the audience. It was a fun event for everyone and a fitting way to end this unique experience.

Other speakers also delivered enriching presentations at the conference. See, for example: -page_13.html


  1. Starker, R (2017) Transforming Libraries: A Toolkit for Innovators, Makers and Seekers. California: EdTechTeam.
  2. See:
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Category: Spring 2019

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