Social capital: a fresh vision for public libraries in South Africa

02 May 2013

The article argues that the construct of social capital offers South African public librarianship fresh vision – urgently needed if it is to fulfil its potential role in social inclusion. Social capital refers to the stocks of social trust, norms and networks that a community can draw on to solve common problems. A wide body of research in Southern Africa bears witness to its role in the success of development projects. Restrictive economic policies, coupled with new demands, have put pressure on public libraries and research points to a prevailing low morale among their staff, who, it is suggested, find themselves caught in the transition towards new models of service. Government’s acceptance of social capital as a crucial tool in the developmental state and the news of its intervention to transform South African public libraries suggest the need to articulate the library as “a place for all”. In reaction to neglect in the literature of social capital, internationally, librarians have documented their building of social capital through their education, information and community programmes. This work offers South African librarians a rich resource to draw on in their search for new direction and vision