‘The books and the staff saved me’

Tania Blignaut.

Librarian Tania Blignaut says her local library helped her develop the confidence she needed when she was a shy child.

Ms Blignaut, who works in Central library’s art section, says the way the staff treated her and the books that she read helped her grow as a person.

She said based on this she knew from the time she was 12 that she wanted to help others in the same way by becoming a librarian.

From the cosy corner where she used to sit and read, she observed how librarians interacted with people and went out of their way to help patrons find the information they needed.

“Southfield library raised me. The books and the staff saved me,” said Ms Blignaut.

She said she doesn’t mind the daily commute from Southfield as she loves working at Central library, which is one of the biggest city libraries and specialises in a wide range of books.

“With my job, I get the opportunity to change people’s lives,” she said.

Ms Blignaut previously worked at a library in Rondebosch in the children’s section and recalls how a mother came for help to get her child to read. “From figuring out what the kid likes to seeing him read a book by himself gave me joy,” she said.

“Nothing gives me the kind of high such as when someone turns into an avid reader or saying that a certain book changed their perception on something.”

The art section at Central library is one of two publicly accessible sections dedicated to visual arts in the country, with Johannesburg having the other, said Ms Blignaut.

Not only is the library resourceful, she says the staff is amazing to work with.

“We have become a family,” she said.

A number of staff end up taking their expertise to community libraries. “If you can make it here, you can basically make it anywhere, “ she said.

Ms Blignaut said libraries sometimes get portrayed negatively.

“The movies either show us as these dragons who love to shush people, and I am here to say that libraries are not like that, especially ours.

“We are rather very involved when it comes to helping our communities through hosting fashion shows, poetry circles and earlier this month, we had a high school steel band performance, which was not quiet at all,” Ms Blignaut said.

“Our library is open to everyone and people should not feel that they do not belong, we are the haven for the weirdos, and the normal, of course.”