CENTURION Pretoria, South Africa, 28 September 2017 - A year ago, Western Cape librarian Mercia Sias was recognised by LIASA for her outstanding achievements and accomplishments in the library and information services sector. She was awarded first runner-up SA Librarian of the Year 2016, an award proudly sponsored by Sabinet.

At the time, Rosalind Hattingh, Managing Director of Sabinet commented, “As the senior librarian at Groenheuwel Library, Mercia has shown dedication and commitment to the broader community through the numerous projects and initiatives she has spearheaded”.

Achieving this goal was just the first step in what would become an extremely exciting journey for Mercia. Life changed immediately after winning the prestigious award, with offers to speak pouring in and boosting both Mercia’s professional career and personal development.

In June 2017, Mercia set off on a study tour to Denmark and Sweden. Says Mercia, “One word about this journey…amazing! I visited eight public libraries to discover what makes them so successful in their communities and to try and find the answer to an important question: how do they draw so many patrons and students into their libraries?” One such library is DOKK1, situated in Denmark’s second-largest city of Aarhus. Dokk1 was in 2016 announced the best public library in the world. Mercia was privileged to experience a tour of this library of the future as well as meeting the Director of the Library.

Mercia was able to gain work experience in some libraries, interview librarians and interact with library users to discover how they experience their libraries’ services. Here she shares her insights into other highlights of the Denmark leg of the trip:

Faxe Library: I visited this self-help Library Service on a Sunday. The library makes use of good systems to ensure a satisfying service to the community. I was able to take out a book and return it and to use the library facilities. I was left wondering how to implement a self-service library in South Africa.

Elsinore Library: I travelled for three hours to reach this library and it was worth it! It has very interesting programmes for the community and special services and projects for the school children on holiday.

Black Diamond Library: Also known as the Royal library, it is situated next to the Parliament building and is huge! Truly a library one can only dream of. The library is a fantastic place to study and to attend cultural activities.

Odense - (Island of Funen): This was a true bonus on my study tour. I was invited by a University Lecturer doing research for the handicapped to visit the Island of Funen. I had the opportunity to test some of the equipment she has designed for handicapped people. It’s interesting to note that Hans Christian Anderson, the famous fairy tale author was born on this Island.

Fredericia: This is the smallest library with an Urban Park Concept. I visited this beautiful town far up in the North. I have brought my learnings to Drakenstein Municipality and VPUU as the Groenheuwel Library forms part of an initiative where a similar project will take place for the New Library for Groenheuwel Community. Mercia’s journey of discovery then continued in Sweden.

Fyren Kulturhus: This library forms part of Kungsbacka Municipality and was another fascinating one, housing interesting programmes and activities for the community of Sweden. She also visited the Main library in Gothenburg. Mercia adds, “I was able to learn and reflect on some of the best practices evident in these countries. For example, cultural activities are held in high regard and libraries and cultural organizations work closely on collaborative projects. Every library has a culture house attached to it. Open space is very popular and draws in many visitors. Libraries also have many outreach programmes - such as visiting homes with library busses. Libraries in Denmark and Sweden also offer useful services such as passport applications and reporting of lost ID and other important documents.”

Sabinet is committed to the continued support of the Library and Information Association of South Africa as well as the libraries and librarians that make such a meaningful contribution to knowledge sharing in our country.