South Africa: The Bookery Celebrates 10 Impactful Years While Fighting for Its Survival - and That of School Libraries


The Bookery was in the process of establishing three libraries when lockdown happened, executive manager Cosmas Mabeya explains during a Zoom interview. Had they been completed, it would have brought the total number of school libraries this highly effective outfit has brought into being to 89. That's about nine libraries a year, and they are spread around the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

For years, Mandela Day at The Bookery has been an annual highlight.

People piled in -- sometimes "upwards of 500 volunteers" over the course of a day -- to the book depot in Woodstock, Cape Town, to cover books headed for new school libraries.

This year, there were 35 people.

It wasn't totally unexpected. Strict protocols notwithstanding, people are wary of squashing into closed spaces, breathing one another's air, touching surfaces that cannot, regardless of how much effort is put in, all be sanitised.

Nor would the reduced fruits of volunteer efforts cause direct or immediate suffering to the organisation or the people it serves.

But the muted atmosphere did not bode well for an aspect of social development that has always been simultaneously neglected by all but its most ardent adherents, while also being generally...

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