Pacaltsdorp’s long-time ‘library lady’ Anita August recently retired after serving her community for 42 years.
The petite 61-year-old senior library assistant has been an integral part of the lives of library users for generations and was one of the longest serving employees at the George Municipality.
An interview with Anita was published in the municipality’s staff newspaper MunIndaba in March 2020, in which she relayed some interesting experiences (see below).
In the 41 years Anita August has worked at the Pacaltsdorp library, none have been stranger than the three years since the clinic next door has been seeing psychiatric patients. And, while it may not be in her original job description, the petite 60-year-old senior library assistant takes the strange behaviour of regular visitors in her stride. “A library is here to serve its community, so all kinds of people are likely to wonder in.”
Like the day a man threatened her with a pair of scissors and demanded library membership. “I grabbed the heavy stapler on my desk, swung it around, and shouted that I would call law enforcement. It must have been a strange sight to behold and I think he was so surprised at my vehement response, he backed off!” said Anita with a smile.
Anita originally hoped to become a nurse, but her family had been teachers and it was expected of her to follow suit. After a year at the teachers’ college in Oudtshoorn, she was convinced teaching was not her calling and she returned home to Pacaltsdorp discouraged and frustrated.
But sitting at home was not her style either, so she walked into the local library in October 1978 asking for a job and got it. “I love reading and books, love being in the community, love knowing all the people who come in. It doesn’t feel like I have been here for four decades…maybe because I enjoy it so.”
While the physical space around her has changed relatively little in her time at the library, Anita has been around for significant milestones including the incorporation of Pacaltsdorp into George Municipality, computerisation of the library catalogue and the internet. “The library has changed from being a quiet place where people came for printed materials to a vibrant centre that empowers people through access to the internet and computer facilities. I have also become a bit of a policeman, having to monitor especially what people search for on the internet.
“There is a part of me that is sad that less people are into books, but I accept that the world is changing. It makes our children and community outreach programmes so much more important. The schools programme is my favourite because I can share my love of books, encourage reading and show kids how to get the most out of the library.
“As a branch library we are also part of a wider community of libraries that serve the outer areas of George and we meet regularly to address our unique needs. There is a special bond between us, a unique unity and understanding that I enjoy and appreciate.”
While colleagues and library users cannot imagine Pacaltsdorp library without her, Anita is looking forward to retirement. “It has been wonderful to be so intricately part of a community and serving my own people, but I am starting to look forward to having time for myself and my family.”
Anita has two daughters, Annabel da Silva and Angelique August, and two grandchildren, Tamsyn and Angelo.
George Libraries Manager Rachel Williams thanked Anita for her service and wished her a rewarding retirement. “Anita has literally been part of the lives, education and enrichment of generations of local people and her contribution is immeasurable. While we will miss her dearly, we wish her the wonderful rest she deserves.”
The longest serving employee was Jusiah Phillips Dikela (also known as ‘Oom Gert’), who died of Covid-19-related symptoms in December 2020 after 46 years’ service – the municipality issued a statement at the time).