The contribution of eThekwini Municipal public libraries towards social cohesion.
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The term social cohesion has become very popular in the post-apartheid South African political landscape. The government, through social cohesion, has embarked on a process of nation building. Public libraries’ role in social cohesion is to provide access to information which is recognised as a human right and a means to redistribute power and status. The purpose of the study was to examine the contribution of eThekwini Municipal Libraries (EML) to social cohesion. This was achieved through examining EML’s four main resources namely: library buildings, library collections, library programmes and staff. The conceptual framework on social cohesion used in this study was developed by researchers within the South African Human Science Research Council taking into account the South African context. The conceptual framework model identified three domains to be considered when researching social cohesion, namely, the economic domain, civic domain and socio-cultural domain. The study falls within socio-cultural domain as libraries are contributors to social capital through the services they provide. The DAC (2018:102) views the goal of libraries to be enhancing “quality of life, wellbeing and happiness, social capital, social cohesion and social inclusion, safety and security.” All branch librarians in EML were requested to participate in the study making for a census survey through a self-administered questionnaire. This study was primarily quantitative in design with librarians given an opportunity to provide qualitative responses to elaborate on their answers if they so chose. A response rate of 65% was achieved which is considered good. The major research findings indicate that while EML are contributing towards social cohesion in terms of the four resources noted above, there are shortcomings due to a lack of effective policies and procedures, funding, staff training and expertise. This is compounded by the lack of a proper legislative framework for public libraries to operate within. This has resulted in the current precarious state of Public Libraries being insufficiently funded, resulting in Public Libraries being referred to as an unfunded mandate. Conclusions and recommendations based on the findings are made. The study established that effectively contributing towards social cohesion is dependent on efficient and effective functioning of library resources which in turn is dependent on a number of factors. These include a proper legislative framework that provides a firm foundation for the functioning of public libraries, adequate funding as well as skills and knowledge on social cohesion.