New librarian-in-chief, Veniwe Robo, once kept her own library in a box under her bed. Now at the helm of Bellville library, she has big plans to encourage more children to read and join the library.
Ms Robo is the new chief librarian of the Bellville library and, although it was not the career she originally chose, it’s the one she believes she was born to do.
“There were no libraries at my schools in Peddie in the Eastern Cape and growing up I had a dream of becoming a medical doctor. Back then, we weren’t exposed to many careers other than becoming a nurse, teacher, doctor, lawyer, police officer or a soldier. I didn’t even know that the profession of librarian existed,” she said.
She hoped to study dentistry, but instead she was offered a place on a library and information sciences course.
“I became a librarian by accident. After enrolling in the course, I realised it was what I wanted to do. I used to irritate my mom by keeping old and tatty novels and magazines in a torn hard box. She would threaten to burn them as they were making her house untidy, and I used to read the novels over and over again,” she said.
The only other reading that took place in her home was when her siblings read their school setwork books, while her mother read the Bible and her father read newspapers.
“I have encouraged everyone in my immediate family to join the library. Even at church, when I get a platform to motivate either youth or women, I would never end my speech without encouraging everyone to read and start using their local library for their personal development and enrichment of their lives.”
Ms Robo started her career at the City of Cape Town in 2003 as a part-time library assistant at Kuils River Library.
After positions at several other libraries, she became the principal librarian at Claremont library in 2015.
“I embraced the challenge and I don’t regret the struggle. When the Bellville position became vacant I was hesitant, but applied in the end. It is so exciting and partially intimidating at the same time. I would like to see Bellville library maintain its status in the community and that it stays vibrant, relevant and continues to excel in service delivery.”
She believes that instilling a love of reading in young children will lead to a reading society.
“If we instil the love of reading among children at a very young age, that will surely stay with them and we will ultimately have a reading society. I want to reach as many children as possible, especially in disadvantaged areas. I have started this on a small scale by visiting three crèches annually, but I would like to expand this. My visits include meeting with parents to encourage them to read stories to their young ones and to make sure they apply for library cards.”
Her favourite genre is memoirs, and when she’s not reading she is the mother to a little boy and is an avid singer.
“Veniwe is passionate about our libraries and growing a love of reading is not just what she does during working hours, it’s also part of her life outside of the City. This is an exciting time for Bellville library and an opportunity to grow the facility. I have no doubt that Bellville will remain one of our flagship libraries and will tackle all its challenges head on,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services JP Smith.