Pietermaritzburg - South Africa needs to strategically position libraries as partners in education to encourage a reading culture and a nation of critical thinkers.
According to the Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan, libraries are vital in eradicating illiteracy and inculcating a mindset of lifelong learning.
"Let us commit ourselves to using libraries to unlock the minds of our nation; become repositories of our cultural heritage; showcase our literary talent; and become an active role player in bridging the digital divide."
The minister was speaking at the launch of the 2009 South African Library Week in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.
He said although the sharing of information was indispensable to the national development agenda as well as to the efforts to stimulate socio-economic development and to sustain human rights, government was faced with the challenge of locating libraries as community hubs.
"The lack of basic and advanced reading skills and an appreciation of the importance of reading prevents libraries from assuming their rightful role in our communities," he said.
He said government will also explore the partnership opportunities between local government, public libraries and private enterprises in promoting the all important role and services of libraries.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Andrew Mellon Foundation are among the foreign donors who have helped in the development of libraries.
"We need to realise that without a culture of reading and high literacy rates, we cannot succeed with our development agenda as these skills form the basis of critical thinking and decision making," he said.