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Monday, 18 December 2017

Just PAWS for a moment!

By: Praba Naidoo
During the first two weeks in November, I felt terribly swamped and overwhelmed. Let me start from the beginning, I was leaving for a vacation and I was physically sick. The Library Marketing team and I had to put the final touches to the Library Newsletter, I had this blog to write, some urgent tasks to attend to, pack for my vacation, that endless “to-do” list and my body was just letting me down. I decided to hit that PAUSE button for a moment and spent the time listening to some music.
This segues into my second PAWS. During my visit to the Gerstein Science Information Centre at the University of Toronto I was told about their “PAWS for a study break” programme. 

The Gerstein library staff noticed increased levels of student stress and anxiety amongst medical students, whilst providing them with research assistance. Gerstein decided to implement the animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programme. This basically gave the students a break from their studying during the exam period by them having several sessions with a therapy dog. According to the staff the AAT programme was well received and positive.

Florence Nightingale was one of the first well-known healthcare professionals to observe the positive influences of small animals on her chronically ill patients. This was as early as 1860. Since then the benefits from exposure to AAT, both psychological and physical have been well documented. However, there is little clinical evidence that supports the impact AAT has on patients in the long term.
The use of furrier activity has become widespread in hospital waiting rooms, assistance with physical therapy, to help patients cope with trauma, mental health disorders, support to prisoner health and comfort in disaster areas.
University libraries globally have been experimenting with therapy dogs as a means to engage students and provide a more supportive environment during exam time. Some of the qualitative feedback from students indicated expressions of happiness, relaxation, a connection with the dogs. With some students interactions with pets was a new experience.  

AAT could be beneficial to our students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). We are approaching a new academic year in January 2018. Attending university is stressful and, consequently, mental and emotional support systems play a crucial role in fostering student well-being. Not only do students have considerable academic pressures to cope with, but they are often living away from home for the first time and integrating into new social groups. For our newly registered students, many will have to learn to cope with leaving home and living in residences. The transition from high school to a tertiary institution can also be difficult to cope with.

The human-animal bond could have a positive effect on reducing the effects of stress, anxiety, homesickness and loneliness. Hence, interactions with dogs can modify stress and positively affect the mood amongst our students.  
Could our friends with PAWs be able to promote retention and student satisfaction amongst all of our students at UKZN? Should we PAWs for a moment at UKZN?

Bell, A. 2013. Paws for a Study Break: Running an Animal-Assisted Therapy Program at the Gerstein Science Information Centre. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 8.
Matuszek, S. 2010. Animal-facilitated therapy in various patient populations: systematic literature review. Holistic Nursing Practice, 24(4), 187-203. 

Monday, 27 November 2017


by: Desmond Beharilal
To commemorate the 21st edition of Poetry Africa hosted by The UKZN Centre for Creative Arts this year, Dr Roshini Pather, the Edgewood Campus Librarian, in collaboration with some undergraduate students engaged in organizing a Poetry Corner in the Edminson Library at Edgewood Campus for the duration of the Poetry Africa Festival, and possibly beyond.

Edminson Library Staff were tasked with organizing the furniture and poetry materials for the Poetry Corner to attract library users and to encourage such users to familiarize themselves with the art of poetry as a means of expression. The Poetry Corner is a very basic set up as per the picture above with books and other related materials regarding poetry. Some students who are studying poetry as part of their curriculum also supplied some interesting poems, frames of poets, and some of their own writings expressing their life and cultures. Current students who have an interest in poetry will also have the opportunity to meet and discuss their poetic talents and exchange ideas with like-minded students. The Edminson Library Staff would assist in rotating the materials on display as and when new items become available. Students will be allowed to display their
personal works in the Poetry Corner with the intention of expressing themselves and reaching other such platforms. The Poetry Corner will also allow for discussions regarding the future of budding Poets and how to showcase their talents at events like Poetry Africa and other such local and international platforms. All students are encouraged to make use of this facility and make their contributions by sharing or learning skills and talents with their fellow students. The creation of this facility is currently in its infancy and there will be further discussions for larger and more permanent premises with much more information and the possibility of forming partnerships to fund such ideas especially with the School of Languages and Arts Education.

Monday, 23 October 2017

UKZN LAW LIBRARY: Risen from the Ashes

Kadephi Majola
During the course of the second semester in 2016 the students countrywide led a “#Fees Must Fall” campaign from which the University of KwaZulu-Natal was not immune. On 6 September 2016, students continued with protests for the better part of the day. The situation turned chaotic due to clashes between the students and South African Police Services (SAPS). Around 5 pm, the GMJ Sweeney (Law Library) was set alight. Most staff had left for the day with the exception of those who had other commitments and were involved with part-time students.

The following day we were all devastated as we witnessed a gutted library, covered in soot and water and areas burnt beyond recognition. The atmosphere was sombre and one of disbelief. Everyone was in a state of shock because of the incident. There was no time to lament, as swift solutions had to be sought to remedy the situation. Subsequently, respective stakeholders (Library, Law School, Campus Management Services and MTI Group) met to map a plan of action to restore library service. 

The mammoth project was about to start. The University brought forward the September mid-term vacation to allow a spirit of calmness to prevail. In an attempt to get work done speedily, the services of graduate assistants (GA) and undergraduates were enlisted. Within the space of 10 days we embarked on and completed much of the process of:

  •        Packing up the entire Law library collection to be sent for                      restoration; it was dirty, hard hard  work!
  •        Identifying new space on the first floor of the EG Malherbe                  Library to temporarily  accommodate the Law Library and                   School of Law staff.
  •        Organizing a team  to prepare for the library refurbishment.
  •        The reconstruction began.

 The work begins…
Team work and project management are buzz words we often use in our everyday work, without a meaning outside the context. ‘Project management’ is used in the context of the project as an activity as opposed to it as a title. Due to time constraints the process of planning and execution of the project were done simultaneously.  Hence, dealing with the crisis did not allow us the latitude of project management planning in its logical form. The various teams worked individually and thereafter collaborated during specific times to ensure that the project progressed well. The teams responsible for ensuring that the Law Library could  return to its normalcy as soon as possible were constituted as follows:
  •        The Campus Management Services (CMS) to deal with the                   physical building and removal of furniture etc
  •        Information and Communication Service Division (ICS) to remove      damaged computers and equipment
  •        Adams Book Sellers and Stationary for the replacement of burnt           items
  •        MTI Group: Humidity & Moisture Control to clean the sooty books
  •        Graduate and undergraduate assistants and library student assistants     to pack the books into boxes
  •        School of Law who did most of the project management –                     and fed the students!
  •        Library who directed students, packed boxes and liaised with all           the contractors.

We worked tirelessly for two weeks, ensuring  that the library services could be as fully functional as possible providing a quality service to all users timeously by the beginning of the new semester two weeks away. Many had to sacrifice their personal time in order to meet the respective deadlines.  Against all the odds these efforts were achieved.
Once the original building was more or less fully restored, nine months later, in July 2017, the temporary Law Library returned to a refurbished GMJ Sweeney Law Library.  The teams across campuses jointly contributed in ensuring this.

Experiences learned from the project
Any situation presents one with an opportunity to learn  from these challenges. Even though disasters rarely occur,  they leave indelible images to the affected. In the circumstances things cannot be changed but the lessons learned are critical going forward. The plight faced by the Law Library required quick thinking action and needed us to respond to the crisis despite having no proper disaster plan in place which led to makeshift arrangements. The progress achieved in the restoration of the Law Library was impossible without the following principles:

  •     Trust relationship
  •       Co-operation
  •        Pooling of skills
  •        Inspiration
  •        Innovation Visionary Leadership
  •        Co-ordination
Although the work was intense, physical and challenging we managed to find humour, happiness and love out of what we did. The enormous task that was impossible to an individual, was only made possible by the collective effort of the team.