Public Libraries Funding and Governance: briefing by National Council of Library and Information Services

Arts and Culture

31 August 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


31 August 2005

Chairperson: Mr S Tsenoli (NA); B Tolo (NCOP, ANC)

Documents handed out:

Centre for the Book's "The Funding and Governance of Public Libraries" - February 2005
Briefing by National Council of Library and Information Services
LIASA brochuree

Centre of the Book website
National Archives and Record Services website

The National Council of Library and Information Services briefed the Committee on a 2005 research report into the funding problems prevalent in libraries. There was a mismatch between the constitutional assignment of the library services function to provinces and its funding which motivated this research into budgets for library services.

Members raised concerns about the accessibility of library services to the rural areas, and agreed that it was necessary to find a cost-effective manner to provide optimal access to libraries. Such optimisation of library services was possible through a better formula for the allocation and distribution of funds. Members also stated that existing library services needed to be enhanced to support, stimulate and accommodate scientific and technological developments.

Members felt that children needed to have a culture of reading inculcated into them and that the art of storytelling in the provision of library services was important and should be accommodated. Members agreed that the Constitution needed to be amended to shift the responsibility for libraries to municipalities as the latter seemed to manage resources better than provincial governments.


National Council of Library and Information Services briefing
The National Council of Library and Information Services Chairperson, Prof Seth Manaka, and the National Archivist, Dr Graham Dominy, gave the Committee an overview of the vision and mission statement of the National Library and Information Services Council. Its vision was to position South Africa as the "best informed nation". Their mission was to provide strategic advocacy for literacy, ensuring that there was open access to reading, to raise government and stakeholder awareness, address deficiencies in the library system and funding development.

Prof Seth Manaka drew the Committee's attention to the findings and recommendations of the February 2005 research report on the Funding and Governance of Public Libraries (see document).

The Print Industries Cluster Council (PICC) Working Group on Libraries had in mid-2004 requested the Centre of the Book of the National Library of South Africa to coordinate research into the funding of public libraries in all provinces. The focus was at first on spending for book purchases but the task team realised that they could not isolate that from the overall funding of public libraries in the country.

The task team found that responsibility was firmly a provincial government one according to the Constitution. However, the situation on the ground did not match the constitutional provisions and this was attributed to the country’s history. Previously provinces and local governments had partnered to provide library services, with local governments entirely responsible in the larger metropolitan areas. The local government library budget relied on funding from rates.

Usually when a function is shifted from one sphere to another, the money for the function is expected to move from the sphere which previously provided the service to that which is now responsible. There was, however, no mechanism for shifting own-revenue money from the local to the provincial sphere. This mismatch of the constitutional assignment and funding was one of the chief motivations for the PICC research into budgets for library services.

The report recognised that it was not clear which sphere of government was responsible for library funding. Likewise, the legislation in the library sector also caused overlapping and was confusing and there was a need to synchronise the different Acts under which libraries fell. National Treasury was a key player in the resolution of the funding problem as it had overall responsibility in the determination of the national revenue between the three spheres government. The Minister of Finance was aware of the problems and it was hoped that the information contained in the report would assist in addressing the funding problem issue.

Mr L Tsenoli (ANC) stated that provincial and local government needed to work together to improve services. Funding should go through municipalities and the provinces could identify gaps. He asked about the composition of the National Council of Library and Information Services, their expertise and interests and whether further funding could be obtained from the Carnegie Foundation. Also was there leverage compelling students to read?

He noted that the Council was comprised of twelve members picked on merit. There were also two ex-officio members picked from the different department offices, and the expertise included academics, librarians, financial auditors and others. They were however not satisfied with the staffing and felt that an implementation centre that ensured that all the national library matters such as funding were followed through was needed.

On the issue of opportunities for access and the role of the Carnegie Foundation, he said that a lot of funding had been provided by the Foundation, especially metropolitan areas that had applied for funding but the rural areas had not because they did not know about that option.

Mr T Setona (ANC) asked how funding was managed politically and stated that there was a need to find donors for further financial support. He also suggested that there was a need to sensitise the Executive to the problems in the library sector. It was critical that people were inspired to read. What kind of interventions could they make as Members of Parliament and how could they support the libraries in their constituencies to overcome these problems.

In his response, Prof Manaka explained that Value Added Tax (VAT) on books made them expensive and parliamentarians should campaign for its removal. He suggested that they could also apply pressure through meetings with Ministers that were involved with library services, such as the Ministers of Arts and Culture, Education and Science and Technology.

Ms J Masilo (ANC) commented that there were insufficient libraries in townships. In reply to her asking why Table 8 of the Report showed a gap for North West's budget allocation for 2000 to 2004, it was explained that these figures had been provided by the National Treasury, and this information had not been provided by the North West for those years.

Ms F Mazibuko (NCOP, ANC) commented that the Council’s vision "to make South Africa the most informed nation" was too weak. It needed to be strong so that people were really stung like a scorpion into reading as opposed to watching television. She felt that a constitutional amendment was imperative in moving responsibility from provincial to municipal government. She asked what the role of the Library Council was in monitoring library facilities in the provinces.

Prof Manaka stated that the vision statement was a dream and dreams were vague and strategies were broad. In time the vision statement will be refined. There was a commitment to educating the nation. They were all sharing in the challenge

Ms D Robinson (NCOP) (DA) agreed with the other committee members and stated that the legislature needed to push for this by facilitating the financing of libraries and look at it from a constitutional point. Libraries also needed to be extended to all communities, to both the rural and metropolitan areas since books were unaffordable for the average person.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) wanted to know about the promotion of relevant literature by the Council. He was also concerned about the loss of story telling in their culture.

The Chair asked why not enough African books were being published. There were no sections in the library dedicated to black African authors, so the language collection in libraries needed to be promoted. There was a need to encourage a reading culture in everyone and funding would play a substantial role in improving access to libraries. He agreed that the Constitution needed to be amended to relocate the funding responsibility within municipalities who better knew the needs of their people.

Dr Dominy said that the publication of African books was difficult as the publishers would only print these if the books were prescribed for schools by that Ministry. Therefore you needed the education system to agree to prescribe and buy the books. They also had a radio promotion to encourage people to write down stories in their language, the goal was to get people to love to read.

Mr Tolo stated that there was a long way to go on this issue and perhaps there needed to be constitutional amendment in order to reallocate this, perhaps municipalities could take it over and also encourage youth to read. One needed something to compel children to read.

Mr Setona said that provinces might not be able to amend the constitution, so what existed was an administration and political challenge. Also he suggested there be cultural programming in libraries.

Mr Tolo stated that they all needed to be allies in working towards accessible library and information services.

The meeting was adjourned

Funding and Governance of Public Libraries : Executive Summary February 2005
researched by Centre for the Book of the National Library in Cape Town

In mid-2004 the Working Group on Libraries of the Print Industry Cluster Council (PICC), requested the Centre for the Book of the National Library of South Africa to coordinate research into the funding of public libraries in the nine provinces of South Africa. The Working Group's particular interest was spending on purchase of books. However, the Group recognised that this issue could not be understood without having a broader understanding of how overall funding of public libraries happens in the country. The commissioned research involved the conducting of interviews in each of the nine provinces, and at provincial, municipal and library level, with persons responsible for library budgets.

The Constitution of 1996 seems to place responsibility for libraries firmly under provincial government. The situation on the ground does not, however, match the constitutional provisions. A large part of the reason is historical. Until July 2002, provinces and local governments partnered each other in the four provinces of 'white' South Africa to provide library services on the basis of powers given through pre-1994 provincial ordinances. However, in the larger metropolitan areas, local government was often responsible for all aspects of libraries services, with little or no provincial support. In homeland areas, and in the African townships of 'white' South Africa, there were virtually no library services at all.

In the past, local government budgets in respect of libraries were generally funded from income from rates. Usually when a function is shifted from one sphere to another, the money for the function is expected to move from the sphere which previously provided the service to that which is now responsible. There is, however, no mechanism for shifting own-revenue money from the local to the provincial sphere. This mismatch of the constitutional assignment and funding was one of the chief motivations for the PICC research into budgets for library services.

The nine provinces
The library function within provinces falls under 'culture'. The culture function is not accorded a full department of its own, but rather grouped with others.

The number of libraries per province ranges from 43 (Limpopo) to 516 (Gauteng). The number of libraries in a province is clearly not proportional to the size of the population. For example, while KwaZulu-Natal is the most populous province, it has less than half as many public libraries as Gauteng, and about two-thirds as many as Western Cape. In all provinces except Western Cape there was some increase in the number of libraries over the period 2002-2004. In most provinces, expansion of services was given as the reason for the increase in numbers.

Different sources give conflicting information on the provincial budgetary allocations for libraries over recent years. The official budget books suggest that the 2004/05 amount ranged from R11,4m in the Northern Cape to R54,4m in the Western Cape. If one uses Census population figures, the per capita allocation ranged from R2,4 per person in Limpopo to R13,9 per person in the Northern Cape.

There is significant variation between provinces in respect of the source of funding for different items. Municipalities are usually said to be responsible for building maintenance, furniture and equipment, salaries and books. In respect of building maintenance, furniture and equipment and books the province often steps in to assist. The province is more likely than the municipality to bear responsibility for construction of library buildings.

In many provinces there are no specific allocations for individual libraries. Often books are purchased centrally. Distribution between libraries depends on a range of factors, including circulation, membership, 'equity ratios' based on rural/urban and previously advantaged vs disadvantaged status, other measures of 'need', as well as indicators of capacity.

Only three provinces were able to provide a breakdown of the total amount spent in 2003/04 on books and related products for libraries for which they were responsible. For all three provinces the amount spent on books far exceeded the amount spent on other print materials and audiovisual.

Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape said there had been no significant change in library policy over the last three years. Gauteng said the only change was the specification of purchasing criteria. Further, 'policy priorities' (other than libraries) had 'dictated' a decrease in funding. North West reported that 2003/04 was the first year that the province had allocated conditional grants to support local municipalities in delivery of library services.

Some further changes were planned. Free State was planning to subsidise salaries of library staff in municipalities in the hope that this would give the province greater control over the qualifications and capacity of staff appointed. Mpumalanga was planning to phase in funding to meet its constitutional responsibility. In the first instance funds would be provided to improve library services, with funding for operations following at a later stage. In Western Cape, a departmental official reported that the province was eager to take on the functions, including libraries, that it had been allocated in the Constitution, but recognised that this would not be possible within the space of a single financial year. Instead, they planned to do it over a three-year budget cycle during which, as the province took up its responsibilities, the municipalities would have decreased responsibility. Another source reported that tentative agreement had been reached between the province and local government that library expenditure would be 'managed down' by 50% over the period to facilitate the province's taking over the function. In contrast to these three provinces, Gauteng was planning to devolve the function to local government.

The municipalities and metros
A total of 21 questionnaires were completed in respect of libraries and 22 in respect of municipalities. Within each province, the researchers attempted to survey a mix of larger and smaller municipalities, as well as a rural-urban mix. The largest municipality in the sample in population terms was Johannesburg, while the smallest was Ventersdorp. The municipal questionnaire was targeted at Community Services or the equivalent directorate or section as they are the ones with responsibility for libraries.

The number of libraries within the chosen municipalities ranged from one in Kgatelopele to 98 in Cape Town. In most cases the libraries were said to be funded by both province and the municipality. However, in Johannesburg, Ndlambe, Mogalakwena, Polokwane and Kgatelopele the municipality was said to be the only source of funding. In Limpopo and North West different municipalities reported different funding mechanisms while in the other provinces there seemed to be standardised practices.

Information on the total municipal budgetary allocation for libraries was provided by 12 municipalities. The amount for 2004/05 ranged from R144 833 in Katelopele to R11 ,6m in Cape Town. For all municipalities salaries accounted for over half the operating budget allocation for libraries. In some cases salaries accounted for more than 80% of the allocation. Some municipalities indicated that there was also a further allocation for capital expenditure.

Some municipalities provided a breakdown by library. Some of these showed significant variation between libraries. In other cases, each library obtained an equal share of the municipal allocation.

As in the provincial interview, the question about sources of funding for different items revealed great diversity. Building rental was the only item with a clear pattern, in that this was always paid by the municipality. Salaries are usually paid by the municipality, but in two North West municipalities the province was also said to make a contribution. In terms of furniture, province makes a contribution in some North West and Mpumalanga municipalities. The province was said to make a contribution in respect of books by most municipalities, but not in Johannesburg, Lephalale, Mogalakwena and Kgatelopele.

The questionnaire did not ask specifically for information on revenue from membership fees. This information was, however, available from the documents supplied by many of the municipalities. The policy on membership fees does not seem to be standard within all provinces. For example, the Potchefstroom budget has no indication of revenue from membership fees while other municipalities in this province do. In addition, many municipalities obtain significantly more revenue from items such as photocopies than from membership fees.

Cape Town, Ndlambe, Zeerust, Mangaung, Mbombela, Kgatelopele and Umjindi said there had not been any changes in library funding policy or practice in the municipality over the last three years. Lephalale and Nkomazi said there was no policy at all! Buffalo City said that apart from the lack of increase in budget, there had been no change.

Ventersdorp reported a significant change, in the form of the introduction of provincial grants. Ditsobotla also reported that they had started to receive grants from the province for projects and upgrading of libraries, whereas previously there was never money available for this. Mogalakwena said that the introduction of the integrated development plan (IDP) process had changed things as priorities were now set and implemented according to this plan. Polokwane said they had experienced changes in the form of zero-based budgeting and a procurement policy which required three quotations per item, and thus caused additional administration in respect of book purchases. Our Johannesburg informant said that minimum standards had been developed and approved by Council and that 1% of the Council's income was meant to be allocated to libraries. However, the Council and budget office had not complied with this rule and at present only 0,57% of the metro's income was allocated to libraries.

In several municipalities, there were some plans (or hopes) for the future to report. Several of the plans related to the division of powers and functions between spheres. There were also some very practical plans, for example in respect of computerisation, tendering, club fees or new libraries.

The libraries
At the library level, the most common situation in respect of sources of funding was a combination of province and municipality/metro. This was the situation in respect of 13 libraries. A further five said they were funded only by the municipality, one (Zeerust, but the same informant provided contradictory information at another point in the interview) only by the province, and two by another combination of sources (generating own funds and donations).

In terms of sources of funding for different items, the general patterns are as follows:
- Funding of building construction is sometimes done by the municipality and sometimes by the province;
- Building rental is always, where relevant, paid by the municipality;
- Building maintenance is usually covered by the municipality;
- Furniture expenditure is sometimes covered by the municipality and sometimes by the province;
- Salaries are almost always covered by the municipality;
- The province usually contributes to book costs. However, the municipality also contributes for a large number of the libraries;
- There is no discernible pattern in respect of-other print materials and audio materials.

There are exceptions to all the above general patterns except that in -respect of building rental.

Only eight of the more than 20 informants were able to provide information on the total budget allocated to the library by the provincial department -over the last three years. Four of the eight could not supply the information for all three years. For the most part the provincial allocations were said to be for books

In contrast, all but one of the libraries were able to provide some information on the amounts allocated by the municipality/metro. For 2004/05 these ranged from R2 000 in Umdoni to R114,6m in eThekwini. The estimates are not directly comparable across libraries as in some cases the estimates provided are for more than one library. Where libraries provided a breakdown of their operational budgets according to the standard items, salaries always constituted the largest item.

Seventeen libraries were able to provide some information on the amount spent on books and related materials for 2004/05. Overall, apart from eThekwini, the amounts are relatively small. Umjindi, Breede River and Ngwathe reported that they had no expenditure on books and related items.

Several libraries reported some changes in policy over recent years. These included a mix of positive and negative developments but more negative than positive. Some informants expected policy to change in the foreseeable future. Most of these responses referred to the constitutional situation. Our eThekwini informant was the only one to argue for the responsibility for funding to lie with provincial government, on the grounds that libraries and heritage were presently unfunded mandates administered by local government.

Conclusions and recommendations
One of the most striking findings of the research is the lack of information available, even to those intimately involved, on library funding. Although there were serious problems with information at all levels, the difficulties were perhaps greatest at municipal level.

The research revealed differences between provinces, between municipalities and between libraries. There were sometimes differences between municipalities within a -province, and also differences between libraries within a municipality. Some of these differences can be explained by practices from the apartheid years. Some, but not all, -of the differences between municipalities and between libraries can be explained by factors such as differences in needs or past usage patterns.

The constitutional issue as to which sphere of government bears responsibility for library funding and, if it is shared, which sphere bears responsibility for which aspects, is clearly a significant factor in the current funding problems faced by libraries. It is not, however, the only problem. In particular, in many cases the budgets are under strain because of the need to serve new areas.

The National Treasury is clearly a key player in sorting out the problems, as it has overall responsibility for determining the distribution of national revenue between the three spheres. A recent report in Business Day suggests that the Minister of Finance is aware that problems exist and is keen to address them. We hope that the information contained in this report can assist those most directly affected to take advantage of the Minister's concern.


Executive Summary of Research Report (see Appendix)


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