Greatly improved access to online information for library patrons
On May 27, the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) from the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, Virginia E. Palmer unveiled the new WIFI services at the American Corner, situated in the Bessie Head Library in Pietermaritzburg. The Wifi Project was funded through the U.S. State Department. Dignitaries who attended the event included the Consul General of the U.S. Consulate in Durban, and Msunduzi Municipality representatives. “This internet upgrade and access to WIFI ties in well with the Msunduzi Municipality’s priorities of encouraging easy access to information” said Msunduzi Municipal Councilor Eunice Majola.
The American Corner opened in July 2006, and has hosted numerous programs focusing on youth engagement and civil society. These programs have been well received by diverse audiences ranging from students and non-governmental representatives to provincial and municipal officials. Topics covered, included health awareness speaker programs focusing on HIV, and various contests around the themes of human and civil rights, social cohesion and non-violent advocacy.
Last month the American Corner poetry club hosted a jazz/poetry celebration at the park outside the library that was attended by hundreds of people. The young poets who meet at the American Corner and use art to address important social issues – like reaching incarcerated youth – are an example of how libraries are continuing to evolve. Libraries are spaces that increasingly bring together communities, to find solutions to challenges, to find information, and to engage with the wider world. These are some of the reasons the U.S. Government continues to support American Corners in libraries and schools around the world.
Although officially launched last week by our DCM, the internet upgrade and WIFI project went live towards the end of last year, and use of the American Corner went up dramatically after this technical upgrade. Last year between January and April there were approximately 900 visitors; this year during the same timeframe more than 3,000 visitors. “It is important that every library patron and American Corner visitor can access information that helps him or her make better decisions based on accurate information about things that are important to all of us, whether it be health, education, jobs, our communities, and our world”, said DCM Palmer.