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Monday, 7 October 2013

The Noise Library

By Ashika Pramlal

Shhh… how often have I said that to students to lower the noise level! So, like most Librarians I am “guilty as charged” of having done this several times in the Library.
Why are Libraries so loud?
Traditionally Libraries have been known as areas of silence. However, there has been a universal shift to the “new noisy library.” What’s interesting is that there appears to be an outcry from many people who believe that Libraries have let the issue of noise and disruption get out of control. UKZN Libraries are no exception to the rule. Across all our Campus sites we face the same problem and have to deal with complaints that the Library has become far too rowdy. Some contributing factors include:
  • Cellphones – this appears to be an essential item and almost everyone has one. The constant ringing and chatting on cellphones has become uncontrollable. Despite all the signage and constant warnings to students it is a “no win situation” for UKZN Libraries.
  • LAN – UKZN Libraries have LANs that are very popular and have become noisy as there is no staff to man these areas.
  • Technology –  the advent of Wi Fi, computers and laptops have changed the landscape of Libraries. This has resulted in the increase of noise levels as people sit around computers and laptops discussing and chatting, and communicating on facebook and twitter. This phenomena has become increasingly popular at UKZN Libraries.

Academic vs public Libraries

It appears that noise is largely dependent on the type of Library and the community it serves. Academic Libraries provide a space for studying, research and other scholarly activities and caters for the needs of the academic community. It provides a space for those wishing to work alone yet not in isolation. In many cases there are quiet floors for study and other floors for conversation. Unfortunately, this has changed as many academic Libraries throughout the world face the dilemma of having many more noisy levels than quiet levels.
Public Libraries on the other hand tend to be more noisy due to various factors. They tend to be smaller and be on a single floor. They cater for a diverse community which includes children, teenagers and older people. Both children and teenagers can get noisy and this filters into the rest of the Library and. in many cases, is unavoidable - creating a “noisy Library.”
Due to the many complaints Libraries have tried to curb the noise problem by introducing some of the following measures :
  • Silent study areas – many Libraries have created silent areas to cater for the needs of those who wish to study. UKZN has certain floors in the Library where there is a degree of silence.
  • Discussion rooms – Libraries have encouraged the usage of such rooms to help with the noise issue. UKZN libraries has discussion rooms where groups of students can work together on projects.
  • Security – an effective method of controlling noise is to have security personnel patrol each level in the library on a regular basis. Security is also essential when one needs to control unruly and difficult patrons. UKZN Libraries do not have adequate security at present to meet these needs.
  • Study cubicles –  at UKZN Libraries these rooms are allocated to postgraduate students for research and a quiet place to study.
UKZN Library staff are trying their best to contain the problem of noise. However, worldwide it appears that Libraries are being transformed into noisy social spaces. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Social media and academic libraries – is this a good fit?

By: Mukesh Kemrajh

Social networking tools for academic libraries: benefits and challenges for implementation.
Social networking tools such as Facebook, and Twitter etc, are increasingly being used by individuals of all ages but are particularly popular among young people and University students. As a result, these social networking tools have been adopted by academic libraries worldwide, for promoting library services within their communities, with potential benefits and challenges.

However in our local context, where do UKZN libraries fit into this picture? I would like to ask the University community, the following:

  • Are the libraries already using social networking tools, and if not, do you think it is advisable to do   so?
  • Would you want the library or your subject librarian to have a presence on social networking sites such as Facebook, twitter and others? If yes, then what information would you expect to find?
  • As librarians at UKZN, what are your thoughts on this issue, would you like to communicate with the University community via social media, and do you think it is feasible to use these media to promote library services in the future?
Before you decide, please find below some pointers for you to consider. 

Social networking and its impact on academic library outreach

Studies in Asia, Europe and USA, have indicated that, social networking tools used by academic libraries are potentially effective methods for student outreach as long as it takes into account the possible issues that may arise. Social networking tools are used for academic library outreach, to encourage and promote library usage among academic staff and student populations at Universities and other institutions.

With the current increase in usage of electronic and internet resources, University students are becoming less dependent on, and often do not use the library as a physical space  for their research. Therefore, academic librarians need to reach students in their own space or environments to extend library services beyond the library walls. According to Dickson & Holley (2010), the goal among academic libraries is to repackage materials into an environment that is more familiar to specific users, and online social networking tools provides such an avenue. Examples of social networking tools used by academic libraries are the usual social networking web sites, blogs, wikis, social media web sites, and social bookmarking web sites.

The benefits of using social networking tools in academic libraries.

Studies in the United States in the mid 2000s, initially indicated that library management, did not think that social networking tools could be used by libraries, due to their nature and the impact it would have on teaching and learning (Dickson & Holley, 2010).

However, the potential use of social networking tools in academic libraries has been highlighted by the use of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.  For example, librarians visible on these media at a specific time were easily identified by users to address various queries. Communication between librarians also improved, when dealing with user’s queries, and the efficient provision of answers. Furthermore Facebook and MySpace were also helpful in improving a library’s social visibility through profiles with a uniform identity. For example, MySpace, allowed different libraries to contribute knowledge and information, maintain a common profile together, and promote new library collections. Facebook has been suggested as a way forward to deliver library services and to communicate with users.

According to Chu & Du (2013), social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter were used for marketing and publicity, and improving reference services and knowledge shar­ing among staff. Instant messaging was also used for handling enquiries and internal staff communication. This tool also enhanced a users’ social presence and created a connection, which was not provided by the usual emails and conventional websites. Wikis have also been used to deal with enquiries and FAQs, creating further communication between librarians and users. Another use of Wikis has also been to create, capture, share and transfer knowledge.

Overall, social networking tools were found to be very helpful, for information and knowledge sharing, enhancing reference services and promoting library services. This indicates a change in attitudes of libraries towards social networking tools as was previously mentioned. With regard to promotion of library services, two purposes were mentioned.  The first was the promotion of library events, such as exhibitions, competitions, talks, seminars, workshops, and tutorials etc. The second was the dissemination of news, such as events alerts, and library updates.
Other benefits were the quick dissemination of information, improved interaction between libraries and students, access to student’s ideas, comments and suggestions, interaction and feedback from library users. Students were kept up to date with news and information, without actually visiting the library.

According to Chu & Du (2013), social networking tools also helped library staff to keep up to date with resources and activities in their profession, and allowed them to learn new technology. As a result, students trusted the library more, as it was keeping up with the pace of technology.
The cost implications of using networking tools were also considered, but found to be minimal or none at all. Training costs were also found to be minimal as the appropriate technology was freely available. The only cost mentioned was the extra time spent by staff on learning and administering the social networking tools. Added to this was the further time spent, in the initial launch and monitoring of the service, but the long term management required little time. Basically the benefits were greater, as compared to the associated cost, as libraries invested almost nothing.

Challenges of using social networking tools in academic libraries.

Firstly, librarians have limited time to learn how to use social networking tools, which is not given priority. Social networking tools are found to be very technical, and the limited time allocated by the librarians is inadequate to learn, explore, and eventually implement and administer these tools in their libraries. For example, the nature of Twitter, with its newsfeeds etc, requires constant personal attention, therefore the library staff are hardly able to monitor them. Generally, it was found that the monitoring of social media in libraries required additional time and manpower, therefore various ways of minimising these factors have to be considered for future implementation.

Apart from the inadequate time for learning social networking tools, another challenge is the ability to master the technology. With the rapid development of social networking tools, library staff might not be able to keep up. In addition to the extra time spent mastering the technology, regular updating of the tools is found to be time consuming. Older library staff also find it difficult to keep up with the technological developments of networking tools. Another difficulty is determining which tools users prefer over another, due to the continuous development of social media. Furthermore, there is also difficulty in understanding how each social media worked, and how it can be adapted to a library.

Furthermore, there is limited interaction with social networking tools, by library staff, as they find the networking tools difficult to understand and use.  There is also no agreement between library departments, as some are willing to use social networking tools, while others are hesitant. This lack of use by staff also creates difficulties in determining who the future users would be.  Students also do not always like using library social networking tools, as they prefer communicating with friends and family, rather than academics and librarians, via this medium. Apart from this, library staff also find it difficult to communicate with students, as the language tone has
to be informal, but also presentable.


Chu, S. K-W., & Du, H. S. (2013). Social networking tools for academic libraries. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 45(1), 64-75.
Dickson, A., & Holley, R. P. (2010). Social networking in academic libraries: the possibilities and the concerns. New Library World, 111(11/12), 468-479.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Mobile Technologies for Academic Libraries

By: Noni Makhathini

With the rise in the usage of smartphones, people connect to data wherever they are. Mobile phones can access email, search the Internet, video chat and play games. Academic libraries should seriously consider exploring mobile technology as a way to connect with library users. Most students and academics own smartphones, and they use these to access email and social media. 

 Online databases such as EbscoHost, Elsevier and JSTOR have mobile interfaces or apps. According to the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee, EbscoHost has apps for the iPhone, iPod touch and Android as a mobile interface. Subject Librarians can test how effective these apps are and recommend them to library users.

Examples of mobile library websites are:

      1.      Stellenbosch University Library (http://m.library.sun.ac.za/)                   2.      University of California Riverside Libraries                                                          (http://m.library.ucr.edu)      
      3.      University of Pretoria Library Services                                                      
      4.      Virginia Tech University Libraries (http://m.lib.vt.edu/)

      Please  have a look at some of the interesting websites for creating mobile web sites, OPACs and   applications:

      1.      Android Developers (http://developer.android.com) 
      2.      Airpac (Innovative Interfaces)      
3.      Library Anywhere (http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries)   
      Havelka and Verbovetskaya (2012) recommend using mobile technologies for information literacy.

      As academic librarians we need to keep up to date with emerging technologies and investigate   how we can use them to enhance student learning and access to information.


       ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee. 2012 top ten trends in academic libraries: a review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education. College and Research Libraries, 73(6): 311-320.

      Barille, L. 2011. Mobile technologies for libraries: a list of mobile applications and resources for development. College and Research Libraries, 72 (4): 222-228.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Common book, one book one campus: does it have relevancy in South African first year university orientation?

By: Faith Nomusa Bhengu

What is a common book?
The common book concept is an initiative practised by international universities endorsed by faculty, libraries and university communities. Students are encouraged to read a common book, nominated by the university and then come together to discuss it. The purpose is to bridge the gap between high school and tertiary education. Its objective is to introduce first year students to critical thinking, by engaging them in reading, writing essays and in the theoretical underpinnings of being scholars.  It is an international practice aimed at bringing together students from different cultural backgrounds across all disciplines. The following universities are among the many that involve undergraduate students in the programme: Johns Hopkins University, University of Washington, University of Kansas and University of California Los Angeles. “KU Common Book will promote community and academic engagement through discussions of a common reading experience among faculty, staff, and students” (University of Kansas 2013).

Program Goals

Students will have an opportunity to:

  •          Share and understand diverse perspectives in a respectful way.
  •          Build a community of intellectually-engaged learners.
  •          Explore their role in creating a just society.
  •      Consider critical action steps that can be taken in response to           their Common Book experience   (University of California                 Los Angeles, 2013).

     The big question is, can UKZN first year orientation benefit from the programme?

    South Africa is a multicultural society, the “rainbow nation” as it is known. South African students face many challenges when they come to university. Some of the challenges are inherent to the society in which they live. Some of these challenges emanate from the South African education system and unequal distribution of resources. According to studies that were done, South African students lag behind when compared to students from other African countries (van der Berg and Louw, 2007). UKZN has taken various initiatives in bridging the gap by introducing alternative programmes to address the problems of students who pass matric with less than the minimum credits required for university entrance. David Loertscher, (2008:42), describes the reading patterns of the Google generation as using “‘bouncing behaviours’, they scan across information…. may not read anything in depth”. Our students would benefit from the Common book programme, because it encourages collaborative learning and discussion among first year students regardless of discipline.


    Group discussions

    Students are placed in groups that are led by mentors, and they have discussions and debates on the selected book during lecture periods. This may also occur in informal settings such as in the library or cafeterias. It is mandatory for all first year students to participate in common book reading. In some instances parents also get involved, by reading the same book. In some cases, (for example at Auburn University) students are encouraged to enter common book writing contests. Essays are written from themes resulting from the common book discussions. In South Africa, one can imagine the impact this might have if university students read about topical issues affecting young people such as rape, drugs and HIV. By participating in the program, students will enhance the skills and abilities that are central to academic learning. It also enables them to challenge other viewpoints and create an understanding of the society in which they live.


    1. University of Kansas.  KU Common Book – Connecting New Jayhawks | First-Year 25 February 2013 (http://firstyear.ku.edu/commonbook/2013)
    2. University of California, Los Angeles. The Common Book at UCLA. 25 February 2013 (https://www.orl.ucla.edu/commonbook/)
    3. University of Auburn.  Fall 2012. Common Book Writing Contest. 25 February 2013 (https://fp.auburn.edu/writing/commonBook.aspx)
    4. University of Washington. UW Common Book. 25 February 2013 (http://commonbook.uw.edu/2012/about/uw-common-book/)
    5. Van der Berg, 2006. Lessons learnt from SACMEQII: South African student performance. In : Investment choices for education in Africa, Johannesburg, 19-21 September 2006.

    6. Alam, D, Ardington, C, and Leibbrandt, M. 2011. Schooling as a lottery: Racial differences in school advancement in urban South Africa. Journal of Development Economics 95(2) pp.121–136

    7. Loertscher, D. 2008. What works with the Google generation? Teacher Librarian 35(4), pp.42.

Friday, 15 March 2013

A fine forgiveness

By: Andrea Vorster
 Whether you were captured by pirates or your dog ate your library book, your moment has arrived! It’s Library Week (16 March – 23 March) and we want your best excuses for returning your books late! In return we will kindly pardon the matter of your late books. It is as simple as that.

Each year, Amnesty Week has offered staff and students a pride saving opportunity to return all outstanding Library material fine-free. This year we are celebrating the Library by offering staff and students a creative solution to the problem of outstanding Library material by publishing some of the shameful excuses we suffer!

What is your best excuse?
The Fine Art Library in Edinburgh waived a £2700 fine for a book handed in more than 50 years late. Writer David Black took advantage of a Library Amnesty period in February this year to hand in a copy of Goya by Dr Xavier de Salas.

The book was borrowed on 22 September 1962, and was overdue for a total of 18,417 days! His excuse was that it simply slipped his mind to ever hand it back: “I was only a schoolboy at the time and completely forgot to return it. The book would pop up every now and again over the years but each time it would slip my mind to actually do it!”
Interestingly, David Black’s book is not the most over-due book ever to be returned to a library. In December 2011 Good Words for 1888 was returned after 123 years after being borrowed from the now non-operational Troutbeck Institute Library.

The matter of overdue library books has plagued librarians for centuries! Underneath the Lintel, http://wn.com/Underneath_the_Lintel#/videos a dramatic play written by Glen Berger (available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License) features a sole character, the Librarian, who embarks on a quest to find out who anonymously returned a library book that is 113 years overdue. A clue scribbled in the margin of the book and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket then takes him on a mysterious adventure that spans the globe and the ages. 

We’ve heard some outrageous excuses and while we’re not keen to track down the not so mysterious trail of your missing books, we thought you might like to read each other’s classic tales. The top 5 excuses will be published in the next blog post!

How can you avoid Library fines? The simplest, most appropriate, way is to return your books on time! In the meantime, post us your excuses for not returning your library books by the due-date on the Library Blog  or visit the UKZN Facebook Page!