SALB Heading
About Us



The Library serves a specific constituency and therefore
it is socially committed to strive, by its own efforts and in co-operation with others, for the removal, as far as possible, of barriers to accessing information

It is committed to providing a quality service to meet, as fully as practically possible, the information needs of all South Africans who are blind or print handicapped.

From Humble Beginnings

The South African Library for the Blind (SALB) was conceived and born of humble beginnings in the then tiny Eastern Cape township of Grahamstown during the height of the 1918 global Influenza pandemic.

While nursing local influenza victims, Josephine (Josie) Wood met Miss Comber, a British nurse who wished to establish religious study groups for the blind. Later and having been recalled to England, Miss Comber, who had developed a personal collection of 100 braille volumes, convinced Josie Wood to develop an accessible library for the visually impairs.

Her acceptance marked the beginning of the library for the visually impaired in South Africa – and led directly to the proudly South African institute today.


1919: Josie Wood establishes a small library in a little room in her house.

1923: A Library Committee is appointed to give the Library official status,

1930: The Library pays off the bond on the building a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York

1949: The Library receives the first talking book machines from overseas

1953: The S.A. Post office grants the Library and its members a free post concession

1968: The Library is declared a Cultural Institution and National Library for the Blind

1970: The National Union Catalogue for the Blind was started as a card catalogue.

1985: The four track tape system comes into operation

1992: Audio and Braille in-house production units are established

2004: Production of Digital Audio books in Daisy format commenced

2008: Raised funds to purchase 2,831 Daisy players for free distribution to members


General Mandate of the South African Library for the Blind

The South African Library for the Blind’s mandate is subject to and operates in accordance with the South African Constitution and the South African Library for the Blind Act 91 of 1998. It is legally committed to the values upon which the democratic South African state is founded and in particular to those of equality, human dignity, the advancements of human rights and freedoms, non-racial, non-sexism, accountability and democracy. In addition, it strives to make a contribution to Africa by being an available resource of advice and expertise in its focus area.

The South African Library for the Blind Act 91 of 1998 mandates the Library to:
Provide a free library and information service that is responsible to the needs of the Blind and the print-handicapped user
Build up a balance and appropriate collection of South African and other documents and on to make them accessible for the use of blind and print-handicapped readers
Produce documents in special mediums such as Braille and audio formats for use by its readers
Develop standards for the production of such documents
Research production methods and technology in the appropriate in the appropriate fields
Acquire and disseminate the technology required by blind and print-handicapped people to read

This mandate commits the Library to:
Maintain and develop the quality of its books production services through appropriate resources and within the Copyright and Intellectual Property Right legislation
Expand its products and services to the print reading handicapped
Expand its collection of reading material and provide access to it
Sustain sensitivity for the reading needs of its constituency
Research applicable technology and Braille codes for potential application
Develop and preserve its human resource skills base
Maintain and develop good relations with its readers, suppliers, funders, the State and publishers
Expand its marketing and fundraising program


The South African Library for the Blind is the leading library in Africa providing equal access to information in accessible formats that improves the quality of life of blind and visually impaired people.


The South African Library for the Blind renders a library and information service to blind and visually impaired people through the production of accessible South African reading material in development of a comprehensive library collection and rendering of advisory services to promote access to information.

values statement

The focus of the South African Library for the Blind is to make a difference and add value to the lives of print disabled people. To make this possible, all our activities are guided by the following values:

1. Trust – We base our working relationship on honesty, and integrity.
2. Respect – We respect people, time and property equally.
3. Teamwork – We work together as a dedicated and loyal team.
4. Positive attitude – We approach everything in an enthusiastic and constructive manner.
5. Communication – We communicate in a responsive, clear and appropriate manner.
6. Development – We actively support staff and infrastructure development to promote individual and organisational growth.

organisational structure

Graphical Representation
Click here for our Organisational Structure

Descriptive Representation
Click here for our Organisational Structure in descriptive format

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Update on the new Library Management System:

The teams from Universal Knowledge Software (UKS) and SALB are busy finalising the outstanding modules and the system should be up and running tentatively by end October 2018.

In the meantime the Circulation Staff continue to manually select books based on your reading interests.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Please submit any inquiries to:;

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