Makhanda’s visionary pillar continues to enlarge its footprint in the country

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Monday, 6th March 2023

The South African Library for the Blind (SALB) serves members of the blind and visually challenged community, providing thousands of book and magazine titles across all genres and in many languages.  The library does not operate like a traditional library as the services are provided using postal and courier services to provide and disseminate information to members nationwide. They do encourage library tours for people to be familiarised and inducted on operations; however, due to the nature of their services they can only accommodate a limited number of visitors at a time.

SALB was established from humble beginnings in 1918, and since then, it has grown to the point where it now services the entire country. SALB started when Josephine (Josie) Wood met Eleanor Comber, a British nurse who wished to establish religious study groups for the blind. Eleanor, who had developed a personal collection of 100 braille volumes, convinced Josie to develop an accessible library for the blind and visually impaired. The Library have mini-library services i.e., service points located across the country. These serve as satellite offices where a variety of programmes are taking place as a way of encouraging social interaction and social cohesion amongst their members and blind communities.

Membership to the SALB is free. Members are welcome to make a financial contribution to the SALB in support of the services to blind and visually impaired members, but this is by no means compulsory. To become a member of the library, you must be legally blind, but the library considers those whose eyesight might be deteriorating because of age, if they have a doctor's certificate to confirm that their eyesight is too impaired to read.

New members, in particular youth, are encouraged to join the library. If they are not familiar with the library equipment, there is always someone available to assist. To ensure effectiveness and the enjoyment of their equipment and books, they do offer ongoing training for members.

Young people can have access to the internet and can also be helped with document reader machines or audio machines. Reading material includes tactile picture books for the young blind children, more so in the areas of pre-scholars and foundation phases.

The library prides itself on offering a diverse variety of reading materials available in alternative formats such as braille, audio, and tactile. SALB will soon be offering special programmes, such as creative writing aimed at empowering the blind and visually impaired.

You can download services via the website. Only smart cell phones are compatible for this option/service and other smart devices for downloading books. To download visit:

The SA Library for the Blind is a Public Entity under the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, their main funders. They are also dependent on external funding such as donations, bequests and more to expand and improve their services to members. The SA Library for the Blind is a Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. This allows donors to claim tax rebates on donations to the SALB, and the SALB does not pay donations tax.

The Library have an active SALB Website and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and also listed on the South African Library Association (LIASA) and International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) as one of their member libraries. They are also looking forward on embarking on a vibrant marketing strategy using all radio stations using the 11 spoken languages in the country. 


The Library opens from 08:00 until 16:30 from Monday to Friday. For more information, you can contact the Library at 046 622 7226 during office hours.



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