Retiring librarian leaves marvellous legacy


Luke Townsend, Wynberg library’s principal librarian is retiring after nearly 30 years and leaves behind a musical legacy in the form of one of the biggest library music collections in the country.

Mr Townsend will retire at the end of May and dance to a different tune.

A love of reading and music inspired him to become a librarian and it’s a job he is loath to leave behind.

“I started working for City libraries in 1984 at the Rondebosch library. I worked at several libraries over the next few years, until I arrived at Wynberg library in 1986, where I worked in the music department until 1989,” Mr Townsend said.

For the next few years he lived in Amsterdam, and was re-employed at the Wynberg library in July 1994.

It’s his passion for music that defined his career, and he said the music and art department at Wynberg library felt like his baby.

“The CD and LP collection is second to none. In fact, Wynberg library appears to be the only library in South Africa with an intact LP record collection. The DVD collection is still in its infancy but has many high-quality feature movies and documentaries,” Mr Townsend said.

Music has also sparked some interesting enquiries.

“The funniest query I ever had was from an elderly gentleman who asked me whether we had any recordings by ‘Sultana’. He had been sent by his daughter to get a CD by Santana,” Mr Townsend said.

Other highlights of his time at Wynberg library include the pro- active maintenance project in 2014, which saw the interior of the library completely rearranged and the building made disable-friend- ly.

Mr Townsend said although people were reading less, Wynberg library had 8 900 patrons, according to membership statistics.

“Most people do not read printed materials anymore and are moving more and more towards digital media, such as the internet, which means their reading habits are haphazard, and they are less likely to develop crucial analytical skills. Few people these days have the attention span necessary in order to cope with reading an entire book.”

Wynberg library is working hard to change this. The children’s librarians have many ongoing programmes, including vibrant pram jams and pyjama jams that are becoming increasingly popular.

“One of the most effective ways of encouraging children to read is to expose them to audio books by high quality readers. This can instil a love of language and develop analytical understanding. The word stimulates the imagination. We should also encourage children to listen to music for itself and not always expect music to accompany some kind of image,” Mr Townsend said.

When he closes this chapter on his life, he plans to play lots of music.

“I really want to re-read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as well as The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. But Beautiful, by Geoff Dyer, is a book I’ve had on my shelves at home for years but never read, so that’s next on my list.”