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National Library of South Africa

The use of newspaper collection for historical research at NLSA

Presenter: Jacky Letsoalo Jacky.Letsoalo@nlsa.ac.za

+27 12 401 9791

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Services offered

Sections of the Library


Survey report



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Established after the amalgamation of State library (Pretoria) and South African library (Cape Town) in November 1999 under NLSA act.

We are the custodian and provider of the nations key knowledge resources.

We are mandated by the NLSA act 92 of 1998 to:

Collect Preserve published documents and Make them accessible

We ensure that knowledge is not lost to posterity and that information is available for research.

Our collection includes : Books published in South Africa, periodicals, government publications, official foreign publications, maps, technical reports and newspapers.


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Services offered The library offers different service to cater for its broader clientele, e.g. Inter-library loans, reference and information services and access to internet services.

Information access services. an entry point to the unique heritage and collection held in NLSA. promotes access to info on site, nationally and internationally. our clientele ranges from general public, private companies, government departments, scholars, researchers and students from various institutions locally and internationally. We corresponds with clients via e-mail, telephone and fax & walk-ins

As we are required to preserve heritage collection, we dont loan out to individual clients.

In 2013/14 financial year, information access services served 361398 visitors and 65137 used computers for internet.

The library receives 258 newspaper titles: 22 daily, 181 weekly, 2 fortnight, 38 monthly, 9 bi-monthly, 4 quarterly and 2 annually.

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Sections within information access

Reference Information sources appropriate for clients research topics. Computers for accessing databases and catalogue. Official Publication Depository (OPD) Access to SA government publications e.g. Government gazettes, SA legislation, Hansard debates and SA law reports.

Map library A separate section for maps collection. Only staff allowed there.

Discussion room caters for clients who work as a team for research projects. Booked in advance.

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New initiative in line with international best practices, creating digital records materials for both preservation and access.

It involves a variety of technical approaches to ensure that publications in digital forms are retrievable.

It requires a long-term institutional commitment, a committed grand/ funding from the institution to realise it.

A public/private partnership to invest on the infrastructure as the library alone cannot afford some of the infrastructure.

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Stack Management

Responsible for the optimal maintenance of the library collections, such as newspapers, books, journals, maps etc., in line with stack management policies and practices.

These tasks include the regular shelving of current and used collections the preparation of periodicals and newspaper for binding, stocktaking, long-term storage planning and the re-location of library collections.

Pretoria campus have a larger collection of newspapers as it has a bigger space for storage than Cape Town campus.

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Includes bookbinding, book repairs, conservation treatment and emergency preparedness and response.

Damaged materials in need of repair and materials that need binding or protective enclosure are treated in the conservation department.

Most conservation functions are limited to the library collections, although advice can be given on private collections.

Specialist conservation staff can assist with salvage operations in emergencies involving library collections and also with developing emergency reaction plans.

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Over time acids cause paper to become brittle resulting in loss of valuable heritage resources.

The library book collection contains more than 500 000 original SA publication.

It is estimated that as much as 60% are in danger of future loss due to paper deterioration.

NLSA is considering offering de-acidification to other cultural institutions and clients in South and Southern Africa.

As part of celebrating 20 years of democracy NMF and NLSA signed MOU to preserve Nelson Mandelas private papers and associated collection in Feb 2014. The Mandela collections will be treated by NLSAs bookkeeper mass de-acidification system.

It can treat both books and archival collections.

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NLSA microfilming SA newspapers for the past 40 years.

The library keeps master films of more than 15 000 reels.

The microfilm collection consist of an estimated 7.5 million pages of newsprint.

There are microfiche and microfilm readers to convert text into eye- readable format.

Microfilmed newspapers in our collection dates back to 1800.

The library continues to microfilm many more newspapers daily.

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Survey report.

The purpose of this report is to analyse the usage of newspaper collection for historical research at the National Library of South Africa.

Case study 1

Male pensioner started to conduct newspaper research since October 2012. Conducting newspaper research on behalf of South African Rugby Union (SARU) official statistician about all rugby players who represented various rugby unions for period spanning 1891 and prior to that when unions distinguished by towns and cities. The centre where the games took place determines the newspaper and year e.g. Cape Argus or Cape Times for Cape Town. Almost all the newspapers are available when requested. He makes photocopies of articles for filing(record keeping).

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Survey report cont.

The decision to publish rests with the SARU statistician. He will prefer to have online access to newspapers.


Printing of newspapers at a reasonable price. Regular servicing of microfiche machines as sometimes few of them are not working and some cannot print even though they are connected to the printer.

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Survey report cont..

Case study 2 The user is a middle-aged woman, started conducting research with us in March 2015. Her research is about music-related content in South African Jewish publications. The SA Jewish Chronicles( 1903-1959, 1959-1999), The Zionist Record ( 1908-1959, 1959-1999), Jewish Affairs ( 1949-1999) and Buurman: Kwartaalblad ( 1970-1986). The research is for her PHD project at Stellenbosch University which considers Jewish musical life in the 20th century South Africa. Up to date she has found what she is looking for with exception of few missing copies.She captured bibliography of music- related content on excel. These will be digitised and made available online.

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Survey report cont. There will be two outputs to this research 1. a fully- searchable online database of all music-related content in South African Jewish publications. 2. Submission of a PHD dissertation at Stellenbosch University.

She also prefers to have online access to newspapers as it will save her time to wait for newspapers to be fetched from the stack rooms.


Incomplete materials and some newspapers are very fragile and brittle.

Recommendations. Library must invest in digitisation of newspapers, especially the old ones, as they are waning because of age.

Digitising will make access easier to a larger public.

Lastly, I would like to commend to an extremely helpful library staff.

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Conclusion and recommendations

Digitization is inevitable if NLSA wants to position itself among the best and to preserve newspapers for posterity.

It will play a significant role in preserving newspapers for the future.

Academic libraries such as UP, UJ and Wits are far ahead in digitization.

The two cases above have indicated that users prefers to access newspapers online as it saves time.

Management need to be very supportive to fast- track digitization of newspapers in NLSA.

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Questions and Answers

End of Presentation