South African Public Library Services to Culturally Diverse Communities
South Africa’s population is diverse and is composed of Africans, Whites, Coloureds and Indians/Asians. Most of the white population is Afrikaans or English speaking. Other smaller groups are of German, French, Italian and Portuguese descent - amongst others. The black population is also diverse. The major nine ethnic groups are Zulu (the largest), Xhosa, South Sotho, North Sotho, Tswana, Venda, Ndebele, Swazi and Tsonga. In terms of the South African Constitution, there are 11 official languages. Religious diversity is also significant. Religions recorded in the census include Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and African traditional beliefs. This paper presents an overview of the unique meaning of cultural diversity in South Africa and the implications of this diversity to the offering of services in the public library environment. An empirical survey was conducted to determine the status quo of the collections and services being offered by South African public libraries to culturally diverse communities, and to determine if these are representative of South Africa’s culturally diverse communities. The findings suggest that public libraries in South Africa often do not recognise the diverse nature of the communities they serve. Causes for the current situation are identified. Finally, recommendations on the development of multicultural library services and collections are also made.
Keywords: Cultural Diversity, Public Libraries, South Africa, Multiculturalism
Lecturer, Department of Information Science, University of South Africa