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Open Features: The Bhuki Cafe

Jacqueline Dowling tells of an inspirational group of friends who are encouraging children to read books.

Why is it that whenever there are budget cuts by government, province , municipalities, or schools, it's always the libraries that take strain? I'm saddened by the lack of libraries in our schools, by the paucity of provincial allocations towards these essential establishments and, in some cases, by the public perception that nothing can be done R.I.P.

In the small-ish South African town of Hermanus, twelve years ago, a group of like-minded booklovers got together as Friends Of The Library and set about reversing the situation. We are a happy and remarkably successful group; the number of books bought by The Friends each month far outstrips those supplied by Province. The coffers are swelling, large numbers of books are being donated (500 recently from one person) and our library has been invited to enter the annual Best Library Heritage Award 2014.

Here's how it's done. Membership of The Friends is voluntary and costs R10 (+-50p) per annum. Members get first bite of all books on the Friends' New Books shelf each month. The reference section becomes the Bhuki Cafe on Fridays for three hours where tea, coffee and amazing homebakes are served. One of our Outreach projects involves inviting crafters from a local retirement home to display and sell their crafts at the Bhuki, they make a voluntary contribution to our funds.

This year our main project, in conjunction with our local weekly newspaper, is to encourage young readers in literacy, in their home language. There are prizes for the best monthly book review and short story if you're only five or six years old, and have enjoyed or not enjoyed, a story read to you, then you tell your mum or dad what to write! there's no limit, and you'll be published on the Hermanus Times book page. And win a book token. But, it's only for ages 6 12 at the moment.

There's a Scrabble club under discussion, weekly in the reference section @ a small fee per game.

We have monthly guests to tea on Fridays, drawn from the wealth of local writers, artists, poets, publishers... the events are informal and very popular. We hope to introduce book launches at some stage. The list is long, and most encouraging.

None of our efforts would succeed without the incredible support we receive from our librarian and staff. We are immensely proud of our library and the volume of dvds, audio and large print books grows monthly; no doubt eReaders will enter the game at some stage but, as a small boy told me recently, after considerable deliberation..'I like pulling my finger down the words on the Kindypad Jacky but I really like turning proper pages best.'


jacqueline dowling
2013



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