South Africa : New library to empower Yeoville residents

By Collen Maepa

Johannesburg - The work is completed and shelves are stacked with books, now all that is needed are keen readers to attend the new Yeoville Library which will open in May.

Located along the busy Raleigh/Rockey Street, the new library has taken shape in the old tram shed in Yeoville, bringing it into the suburb's civic node, reports

Seipati More, a development manager at the Johannesburg Development Agency, which undertook the renovation of the building, said the library will officially open on 16 May.

"The project took 10 months and was completed within time. The building was originally a tram shed, and then became a City Power sub-station before it was converted into a library.

"The new library will be located with all other community facilities. These are the recreation centre, clinic, community park, multipurpose courts, swimming pool and a proposed new police station," Ms More said.

Together, these make the civic node. "It was only the [old] library which was outside the civic node [a few blocks away]."

Originally budgeted at R6-million, the conversion ended up costing R7-million. This was because of unforeseen structures - a sump and a rail track - discovered underground as the contractor was demolishing, Ms More said.

There is also a huge tunnel underground that was retained in case the library wishes to use it in the future.

Building the library was a challenge for the contractors, Boikanyo Construction, Ms More said.

Built in 1924, it was first the city's tram shed, later becoming a power station. The old building contained bollards, a well and concrete lumps. A new concrete floor had to be added.

"There were unforeseen structures discovered underground as the contractor was demolishing. There were also steel and concrete structures that were used when the building was a tram shed which were buried underneath," she said.

Recently, four Grade 5 learners from Yeoville Community School - Munashe Nharara, Susannah Nguwi, Nomthandazo Dlamini, and Mercy Mahopa - visited the new library and were delighted with the facility.

"We are very happy that we have a big library like this one. We will be able to come here on weekends to do our school work. We can't wait to use [it]," said Munashe.

The new library has three sections: for children, for teens and for adults. Elegant furniture comprises tables, chairs and shelves made of polished wood and metal. The inside is painted pink, while the outside is cream and brown, with exposed brickwork.

As it is a heritage building, Ms More said the design retained as much as possible of the original structure, originally just one hall.

Sue McMurray, a manager with the City's Library and Information Services Unit, said there are no computers for the library at present. However, there is a computerised literacy programme, Media Works, for people who need to learn how to read and write.

The furniture, which cost R700 000, was sponsored by South African Breweries which contributed R100 000 towards the furniture and R40 000 for air-conditioning in the adult reference section.

Ms More said the City's Social Development Department has plans for the old library building a few blocks away which will possibly be used for community-related activities. - BuaNews