For the love of art… and books


The Central Library’s art library has scooped the Western Cape Cultural Affairs Award for best contribution to visual arts, including public arts.

Nobody could be more thrilled about this accolade than the art library’s head librarian, Elsa von Ballmoos who is also quick to point out: “I really see getting this award as a team effort because I have two people who work with me.”

These two people are assistant part-time librarian, Aziza Davids, who lives in Lansdowne, and assistant librarian, Clayton Oliver, a Bellville resident.

Ms Von Ballmoos adds: “Also, my predecessor, Garton Bauer, built up a fantastic collection. So he essentially laid the foundation and I am just building on what he put in place.”

Ms Von Ballmoos, a Bothasig resident, joined the Central Library team in 1989. “I’m part of the furniture here,” she laughs, before adding: “I started as an assistant librarian before becoming a librarian. I then moved to the art library about eight years ago.”

The move to the art library was, she says, “the best move I ever made”.

Detailing some of what the library consists of, Ms Von Ballmoos says: “We have various specified collections. South African and African are our main priorities, but we also have a student collection – aimed at the college students – as well as fashion collection. The fashion collection is new and was introduced because we have so many fashion students coming in here. It also ties in well with the fashion shows the library often hosts here.

In addition to offering artists a free space in which to exhibit their works, she says the library also offers “a DVD collection that is out of this world”, a closed-access erotic collection, a collection of graphic novels as well as a street art collection.

A love for the work she does is, in large part, what led Ms Von Ballmoos and her team to snatching their most recent award.

“You either have passion for art or you don’t,” she says, adding: “It’s a challenge. No day is ever the same and I love that. I wake up excited every morning because I don’t know what the day will bring. I really just love what I do.”