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Libraries are important for any school. They are quiet, safe places where children can study, improve their literacy and pick up a love of reading. The access to books helps children to grow their knowledge, creativity and understanding of the world.

Despite these benefits, over 90% of government schools in South Africa do not have functional libraries. This shortage is most keenly felt in poor communities, where there are few quiet and stable learning environments, and where most homes do not have books.

To address this problem, The Bookery has committed to work with schools and partners to provide and support sustainable, functional libraries in under-resourced South African government schools.

Our vision is to create a model that government and other organisations can adopt and develop to give all learners in South Africa access to this valuable resource of learning.

Our experience

Started in 2010 as part of Equal Education (https://equaleducation.org.za) and becoming an NPO in 2013, The Bookery has set up 48 school libraries in South Africa. In 2014 we added a major component to our work that supports the libraries we set up to ensure their sustainability.

Our History

The Bookery opened its doors at 20 Roeland Street on 1 March 2010 as part of Equal Education's Campaign for School Libraries. School libraries were to be set up in under-resourced communities with the aim of showing the positive impact they bring to schools and learners, both academically and culturally. Books and resources for the libraries were to be sourced from the general public and from a variety of different partners.

The Bookery got off its feet under the coordination of Rich Conyngham, who took what was left of the original Charley's Bakery and turned it into a vibrant book depot. Once opened to the public, the word quickly spread. With the help of a group of volunteers, the first two libraries were opened — one at Thembelihle High School in May 2010 and another at Lavender Hill High School in June 2010.

After Rich, Themba Tshabalala took over and was responsible for the next five libraries before Cosmas Mabeya became coordinator in late 2011.

After three years contributing to Equal Education's campaigns for school libraries and school infrastructure, The Bookery became an independent NPO in October 2013. It moved to Plein Street in January 2014, and aims to expand on the work already done.

Rich Conyngham with one of The Bookery's early volunteers, Katie Lamond.

Cosmas Mabeya with interns from Kehl University and EE volunteers outside The Bookery's original premises. (2013)