by Golly Odendaal
Many of you have heard about the Internet@yourlibrary project and have asked what the buzz is
all about. Some have said that similar projects have been initiated in libraries in South Africa and were not
successful. We can show how this project, through careful planning, and with the concept of cybercadets has
been a recipe for success.
The national department of Arts and Culture provided all provinces with conditional grant
funding for the “recapitalization of community libraries” over a three-year period beginning 2007/2008.
KwaZulu-Natal was allocated a total of R74 292 000 for the grant period. Funds could not be used to
replace currently funded services to libraries but for redressing needs not affordable on the normal
Manager Carol Slater designed an ICT plan with a difference, using a portion of the money for
the Internet@yourlibrary project. Supplying only hardware and software to already overworked librarians not
skilled in ICT is one of the reasons that previous similar projects in the country have failed. The Cyber
Cadet was born – a young, vibrant person with IT and word processing skills whose sole responsibility it is
to maintain the Cyber Café and help the community with their needs and projects regarding
Librarian and IT specialist Patricia Stannard, currently working for SITA, but one of the first
librarians to install PALS in KZN libraries, was asked to research and come up with a workable hardware and
software plan. Five computers for the public, linked via wireless network cards to a
computer for the Cyber Cadet/staff, two laser printers and uncapped Internet access, forms the first
phase of the project. Where DSL lines are possible, they have been installed. In areas where there is no DSL
connectivity, satellite connections have been installed. The grant also funds connectivity costs.
Open source software is integrated with the more costly proprietary software. Users can choose
between Microsoft Office or Open Office, and be trained on both. The beauty of Open Office and other open
source software (Picassa, Firefox) is that the user can make a free copy for the software if she/he has a
computer elsewhere to work on.
Computer security is taken care of by using CleanSlate software that returns the computer to the
original defaults when a user logs off. OfficeScan anti-virus software provides excellent protection against
viruses and Websense software is installed for Internet monitoring and screening of undesirable sites.
Time-Limit Manager provides a facility to book sessions on the computers to ensure fair
The project has a larger meaning than just supplying Internet access to the community or giving
tertiary students a place to type their assignments. Classes for the older community members, children
creating masterpieces using Paint software, teens designing and printing Valentine’s cards and young
entrepreneurs creating and printing their own business cards are just a few of the community projects that
the Cyber Café’s promote.
Librarian - Cyber Cadet Collaboration
Collaboration between librarian and Cyber Cadet is of utmost importance. The librarian can use
the Cyber Café as a marketing tool for the library’s services. Planning training workshops together with the
Cyber Cadet, the librarian can create displays on themes such as business plans, CV
and interviews, creating cards or starting your own business. A well planned training session can
coincide with a block loan from Central Reference library or Special Collection from the Depot. Whilst
patrons wait for computers to be available, newspapers, magazines and books can be made available to entice
patrons to use other services that the library offers.
Librarians can work together with the teachers on school projects needing current information or
information not available in the library, and the Cyber Cadet can create folders on the computers, do
research when it is quiet, and have the information readily available when the hordes descend upon the
library in the afternoons! Learners learn how to use a variety of media to access the information they need,
and learn ICT skills in the process.
Date: 24 July 2009