Place, space and time: adult education experiences of learners and librarians in South African public libraries

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De Gruyter


University of Cape Town

Drawing on results of a national survey, this article examines adult education in South African public libraries from the perspective of adult learners and librarians. Quantitative data from 589 libraries from the total sample of 1295 libraries was collected. This was supplemented by qualitative data collected during site visits to eleven libraries selected to cover geographical spread. The activities of the 26.7% of the libraries involved in adult education are analysed with a view to understanding the interventions through the experience and perceptions of the participants, and so arriving at an understanding of the contribution of the libraries' role in the fight against illiteracy which is acknowledged by the South African government as a serious impediment to its development efforts. An attempt is made to assess the extent to which the experiences in the libraries can be said to be particular to the local situation, or whether the lessons learned form part of a broader pattern of adult education policy and practice observed in other parts of the world, especially developing countries. It is concluded that, in spite of the modest scale of the interventions, the impact is sufficiently encouraging to recommend intensifying and spreading initiatives in the public library's drive for social inclusion.