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From our Past to your Library’s Future

Feb 26, 2020 | Press Releases

At the heart of being ready for the next big thing is having access to information – to make informed choices, calculated decisions and predictions based on fact – so we can conquer tomorrow with confidence.

It has always been at the core of our mission at Sabinet, to build the trust of our users whilst promoting cost-effective resource sharing, but we had no idea that, when our 40 founding members decided to collaborate in 1982, that the initiative would be so successful. The first formal step on our journey was to form a non-profit company in 1983. The ultimate goal was clear: to empower people through knowledge and to enable our users’ easy access to the information they needed, when they needed it. This hasn’t changed. Nor has the calibre and commitment of our personnel.


Sometimes, looking back gives us a better idea of where we are in the greater scheme of things, and how we came to be here. As online computer networks came to the fore in the late 1960s, library co-operatives began to transform into more formalised library and information networks. In the 1970s, the National Library Advisory Council, in close co-operation with the South African library profession, investigated the possibility of a comprehensive library network that would maximise access to existing information resources. The study revealed that the key needs of the thirty major libraries were: better management of information, information sources and finance – resulting in recommendations for the establishment of a South African Bibliographic and Information Network – SABINET.

In 1983, Sabinet began its journey to promote resource sharing amongst libraries in South Africa and become the largest source of online information from Africa.

Today, over three decades later, Sabinet’s world-class services continue to develop based on the evolving needs of libraries and include collaborative cataloguing, resource sharing and a state-of-the-art library services platform.


Founded on the simple concept of sharing, Sabinet, in 1995, collaborated with OCLC, a global library cooperative dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information, reducing information costs and lifting the barriers of tapping into essential tools and resources.

At the same time a growing number of libraries had been co-operating to build the South African National Union Catalogue (SACat), and to share resources. During the late 1990s it was decided to incorporate SACat into WorldCat, OCLC’s worldwide union catalogue that itemises the collections of 72000 libraries in 170 countries around the world. WorldCat Cataloguing was thereby incorporated into South African library workflows, seamlessly connecting them to the world’s largest library catalogue.

Today the SabiCat service supports the collection development process from the acquisitions to the cataloguing stage, harnessing the power of cooperative cataloguing amongst thousands of libraries.


Sabinet continues to innovate to bring libraries quality services that are easy to use, save time, bring about cost savings and streamline workflows. The cloud-based services, supported by free training and local support, further reduce the risk of data storage and managing servers that require additional technical expertise that may not be readily available within the library itself.