About Us

Tuesday, 10 December 2019


by Kadephi Majola 
Dress code refers to the required work attire. A company may enforce a dress code for its employees. In most places like financial institutions (banks), government departments (hospitals, SAPS, post office), municipal departments (metro police & waste departments), hospitality (restaurants & hotels), production companies (car dealers) and supermarkets to name a few, all have uniforms / a dress code to identify their employees. The corporate sector usually has a certain expectation of the way in which their employees represent the company.  This becomes part of developing the culture of the organization.
Generally, the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s dress code is restricted to Campus Management Services (CMS), which includes Risk Management Services and cleaning departments. Most other departments including the Library do not have a stipulated dress code, and there is no binding policy that regulates the way we project the ‘company’ as part of its cultural identity. Some departments have branded golf shirts to identify themselves.

The UKZN libraries provides services to the larger university community and external users of the libraries, which includes other libraries, alumni students, the academic community in the country and international users.
In the different libraries we have security and cleaning staff who are easily identifiable by their particular attire. Identifying the library staff which includes the day staff and night staff (student assistants) as the library operates 24/7, is usually a problem for new users of the library because they are not familiar with library staff. It is problematic to identify staff members if they are not in their workstations. This makes it seem as if we are not user friendly because there is no proper identification of staff members. The provision of a dress code may enhance the identity of library staff and potentially projecting the department in a professional and positive manner.

Challenges encountered by library staff
Library staff are faced with common problems just like any other employees of the institution of higher learning. A tough challenge is when staff have to patrol around the library checking on user behavior. There are limited ways for users to identify staff members when approached by them to remind library users of their behavior e.g. eating, chatting with friends, having loud telephonic conversations and sitting in an inappropriate manner, to mention just a few. Name badges may not be enough.
Some staff members are only a few years older than some of our users, and as a result, users do not respect the staff member and they do not take staff members seriously. In most cases users do not know our names, they do physical features descriptions when trying to identify a staff member, which is not always appropriate. In most instances, the users refuse to obey the library rules and they are arrogant and rebellious.

In order for staff members to provide excellent service, they need to work in a conducive environment where their human rights are recognized. As we are a diverse nation, we cannot ignore different cultures and religions among the employees. We have to respect the different cultures that we have in the workplace, which might prevent some employees from complying with a certain dress code. Nametags or similar identification for employees may get round this issue but it may not be enough to avoid any confusion with regards to who is and is not a staff member. A dress code as opposed to a uniform may help library staff be more easily identifiable to users and help portray a good image and self-confidence.   

Friday, 22 November 2019

Preventative Conservation of the Seaman Chetty Collection


A library is a repository of wisdom of great thinkers of the past and the present. It is a social institution charged with the responsibility of disseminating knowledge to the people without any discrimination. The holdings of the libraries are the priceless heritage of humankind as they preserve facts, ideas, thoughts, accomplishments and evidences of human development in multifarious areas, ages & directions. The past records constitute a natural resource and are indispensable to the present generation as well as to the generations to come. Any loss to such materials is simply irreplaceable. Therefore preserving this intellectual, cultural heritage becomes not only the academic commitment but also the moral responsibility of the librarians / information scientists, who are in charge of these repositories (Sahoo, 1990).
The Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation housed in Westville Campus B Block. The collection consists of museum items, photographic material and a library. The Centre aims to record the present, preserve the past, provide information and stimulate research.
Durban-born, he was among the first black South African boxers to be world rated. At the age of fourteen, after the death of his father, Chetty faced the challenge of taking over the family’s fish and chip business. Three years later, with the encouragement of his uncle, Seaman Dorasamy, Chetty embarked on his remarkable boxing career. Boxing promoter Billy Padarath signed him up immediately after witnessing Chetty’s remarkable victory in the early 1990’s when the local boxer beat four opponents in a single night. Chetty also snared the South African flyweight and bantamweight titles. After leaving the navy, he became a boxing instructor, training some of South Africa’s finest black boxers. Chetty left behind a proud boxing legacy.
The Seaman Chetty donated his army uniform, and boxing outfit to the Centre. The Seaman Chetty Collection comprises of a boxing outfit and army uniform. (Boxing outfit, belt, sewed pullovers, caps, insurance support, calfskin belt, towels and Crepe gauzes. There are additionally trophies and identifications. )

Strategic Plan 

I contacted Neil Somers our Preservation and Conservation officer for guidance. Nellie assessed the collection and contacted an expert in restoration and cleaning of textile and leather. A preservation needs assessment of the Seaman Chetty’s collection was compiled. A Preservation Needs Assessment provides clear guidance for the future management of museum and other significant collections. It is an important document for museums and other collecting institutions. A Preservation Needs Assessment evaluates the policies, practices and environmental conditions of a museum, with the aim of identifying factors that may have an adverse effect on the future preservation of a collection. It will look at the physical condition of a collection and the suitability of current housing, display and storage facilities(Services, 2016). 

The Conservation Process

Neil Stuart-Harris, Preventative Conservator: Textiles from the Durban Local History Museums was contacted to assist with the conservation of this collection.

As a precursor to the commencement of this process, Neil was asked if he would conduct a demonstration workshop of the various conservation processes of the various items in the Chetty collection.

See photographs at the end of the document

1.    Army Uniform Jacket

The jacket was very dusty with some creasing. The article was thoroughly vacuumed inside and out including the interior of the pockets. Various items found in the pockets were removed, recorded and relocated to a melinex enclosure (see photograph below). The artefact was subsequently brushed with a clothes brush and then steamed to remove creases and restore the shape. The buttons were tarnished and dust was lodged in the embossed ridges of the button crest. The buttons are attached with a double split ring, the shank passing through a small round button hole. The buttons were removed and vacuumed, cleaning proceeded with Wrights Brass Cream using cotton swabs. The metal was restored to its former lustre and reattached to the jacket. The various manufacturers’ stampings on the base of the buttons was documented. 

Seaman Chetty army jacket buttons – manufacturers stamping

Centre front closure – Top button Smith & Wright Ltd Birmingham
3 x B & P Ltd B.Ham ( Brent & Parker Ltd Birmingham )
Epaulettes – 1 x Smith & Wright Ltd Birmingham
1 x B & P Ltd B.Ham ( Brent & Parker Ltd Birmingham )
Breast Pockets – 1 x Smith & Wright Ltd Birmingham
1 x unstamped
Skirt Pockets – 1 x B & P Ltd B.Ham ( Brent & Parker Ltd Birmingham )
1 X Firmin London
Cuffs – 4 x Buttons Ltd Birmingham with a logo of crossed swords below

The jacket was displayed on a flimsy metal hanger which contributed to the loss of shape of the artefact. It was recommended for future display that the article be mounted on a padded wooden hanger or preferably on a dress stand with sleeve supports.

2. Scout Jacket

The jacket was extremely dirty, mould and lint infested and required a thorough vacuum using a narrow nozzle suction pipe with a stiff brush attachment. This cleaning was repeated twice. The artefact had been stored badly resulting in deep creases which required repeated deep steaming. The buttons were cleaned using a tooth pick and de-ionised water applied with a cotton swab. 

3. Boxing Dressing Gown

The gown was lint covered and very dusty. The conservator vacuumed the article inside and out and proceeded with a wet clean soaking the artefact in de-ionised water for 30 minutes. The object was washed using a pure soap solution applied with a sponge roller. The gown was thoroughly rinsed and towel dried, hung and left to dry. 60% of the French seam of the right hand arm hole had come apart and was subsequently re-machined. The under-stitching of the upper revear and collar on the right hand side was re-stitched by hand with 100% cotton thread. The gown was steamed and the sleeves, shoulders and side seams padded with acid free tissue and then packed with minimal folding for storage. This artefact will be displayed in the future on a dress stand.

4. Boxing Gloves

The boxing gloves were very dusty showing some signs of mould growth and the leather was extremely dry. The gloves were vacuumed inside and out and given a damp wipe with de-ionised water. After a 24 hour drying period they were treated with Lexol Leather Dressing and once dry were buffed up with a soft cotton cloth. The inside of the gloves were packed with acid free tissue to restore and maintain the shape. The laces had been removed and given a wet clean eliminate the extreme staining. 

5. Suede Boots

The calf length boots had been stored in such a way that the suede was flattened, creased and extremely dry. They were packed with polyester batting and allowed to stand for a week to encourage the creases to drop out naturally. They were vacuumed inside and out and steamed to restore the moisture into the suede. Once dry they were brushed with a small stiff brush to restore the pile. The interiors were packed with acid free tissue, and to assist the support of the vamp a strip of foam core board was inserted prior to lacing. 

Image before conservation: Army jacket; scout jacket; boxing gown; boxing gloves; suede boots
Images showing conserved artefacts, left to right: army jacket; scout jacket; boxing gown; boxing gloves; suede boots


SAHOO, J. 1990. Preservation of library materials: Some preventive measures. OHRJ, 47, 105-114.
SERVICES, I. C. 2016. Preservation needs assessments [Online]. Australia Available: http://www.icssydney.com.au/index.php?id=268 [Accessed].

The splash on my words: Food in the library

by Mrs Jabulile Sibisi–Mshengu 
Many libraries have issues with books returned with coffee stains, food stains, and covers that are sticky with who knows what.

Library staff normally find sweet wrappers, apple cores, branded fast food packaging etc thrown behind books on the shelves, chocolate ground into our carpets, and crumbs everywhere.
Crumbs attract cockroaches and other insects. Most staff members really do not want to deal with mice and ants all over the library. Library workers are not equipped to clean up this type of filth.

There are unspoken rules for the library

Rules are everywhere. Some rules are acquired whilst others are learnt: keep to the left when riding the escalator, turn off your mobile phone at the movies, or wait in an orderly line to place your coffee order. In the Library, it works much the same. There are some rules that are set in black and white and others we can fill you in on. 
Here is a friendly reminder about some of the UKZN Library rules that you might not know about.

  • Food or open beverage containers are not permitted near computer workspaces (only spill-proof beverage containers are allowed).
  • Do not consume or be intoxicated with alcohol
  • Do not put your food in your bag together with library material.
  • Avoid eating snacks and drinking beverages while handling or working around library materials.
  • Do not litter, cause any mess or leave the library computer LANS and Research Commons in an untidy state. For more information:

Messing with my brain

Do food and drinks damage library material only?
The answer is NO.
UKZN libraries are open for 24 hours. Some students are part time who work in the day and use library material at night.

  • Eating and drinking in the library is not only about messing the building and library material. It also disturbs the user’s concentration.
  • Eating in the library can make others hungry and if they are trying to work, then thinking of food can ruin their levels of concentration.
  • Smelly food can put other users off their work and leave unpleasant smells around the library.
  • Smelly food can also lead to people getting sick.
  • Some people make sounds when they eat which could disturb others.
My suggestion is that libraries should have an eating area where users are allowed to eat. It will also help to reduce the mess and overflowing dustbins.

CalPolyPomona University Library.(2019). Code of conduct for library users. Available: https://www.cpp.edu/~library/access-services/circulation/code-of-conduct.shtml {Accessed 10 October 2019}
Ngcobo , N. (2018). 24 Hour Service: UKZN Libraries responding to student’s needs. Available http://libwebteam.blogspot.com/search/label/Nonjabulo%20Ngcobo {Accessed 10 October 2019}
University of California San Francisco. (2019). Food and drinks: Allowed with some exceptions. Available: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/about/policies/food/ {Accessed 8 October 2019}
University of KwaZulu-Natal Libraries. (2009) Code of conduct.  Available: http://library.ukzn.ac.za/TopNav/GeneralInformation/CodeofConduct.aspx  {Accessed 15 October 2019 }
University of Western Australia library. Food and drink in the library: Can I eat and drink in the library. Available:  https://ipoint.uwa.edu.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/2737/~/food-and-drink-in-the-library {Accessed 15 October 2019}

Monday, 14 October 2019

Did you know?

By Faith Magwaza
Howard College Campus will be opening the new and expanded state of the art Research Commons shortly. This facility is now situated on the 1st floor of E.G. Malherbe Library.

It is one of a kind in the history of UKZN Libraries. It is furnished with:
          •  Fast computers
          • Latest data analysis software
          • Comfortable seating areas
          • All around cameras for safety
          • Printing and photocopying facilities
          • Tea and coffee area
          • Interactive rooms furnished with large monitors
          • Supervisor consultation rooms
          • Research reference material.

Who is eligible to access this vast study area and reading material? Registered UKZN Masters and PhD students.
And there’s more! Half of the 1st floor has been turned into a Research Hub with individual study cubicles.
The facility is access controlled.
What else?
Coffee area

Comfortable chairs

Seminar rooms

Desktop computers

Group Study Rooms

Group Study Rooms

Are these group study rooms available 24/7? These rooms are only available from 8:00- 4: 00pm. They can be booked at the issue desk on the Ground floor of the Library.
For more information on the New Research Commons contact your Subject Librarian: contact details:
Ms Nonjabulo Ngcobo…Ngcobon16@ukzn.ac.za
Ms Claudette Kercival…Kercival@ukzn.ac.za
Ms Nontobeko Sikhosana…Sikhosana@ukzn.ac.za
Ms Faith Magwaza…Magwazan1@ukzn.ac.za

When is the official opening? Watch the Space!!!

Thursday, 10 October 2019


by Shorba Harkhu

Renovations to UKZN libraries have been sporadic. We at the Life Sciences Library were fortunate enough to have our toilets renovated recently – an upgrade that was badly needed. The staff were excited to hear that work was finally going to begin at the end of July this year. Campus Management Services (CMS), and not the library undertook this project. Walls were broken down and old pipes were removed.  We just had to cope with a bit of drilling and dust for a while, and having to traipse down two floors for a toilet break. New pipes and toilets systems were installed, and polished porcelain wall and floor tiles were fitted. The walls and doors were given a new lick of paint. We also have a full-length mirror to boot!

We are thrilled with the modern look and colour. Have a look at the photos of the ladies toilets below.

Toilet trivia
  • The first toilet was built in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 3000 BC (Wald, 2016). These non-flushing pit latrines about 4.5 metres deep were lined with a stack of hollow ceramic cylinders about 1 metre in diameter (Wald, 2016). 
  • Around 2000 BC one sees evidence of a flushing toilet on the island of Crete (Wald, 2016). This must have been for the elite only.
  • In 1596 the first flushing toilet with a cistern was invented (Lambert, 2019). Flushing toilets were a luxury at first, and only caught on in the late 1800s (Lambert, 2019)

Lambert, T. 2019.A brief history of toilets Available: http://www.localhistories.org/toilets.html
Wald, C. 2016. The secret history of ancient toilets, Nature, 533 (7604). Available: https://www.nature.com/news/the-secret-history-of-ancient-toilets-1.19960

Friday, 13 September 2019

Nelson Mandela Day, 18 July 2019

By Jillian Viljoen

Nelson Mandela is a symbol of liberation and freedom, not only in South Africa, but globally as well. One of his famous quotes regarding freedom is “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”[1] His fight for freedom was not just for freedom from oppression but encompassed equal education as well, and he maintained that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.[2] With this in mind, the Pietermaritzburg (PMB) UKZN libraries held a competition on Nelson Mandela Day. The questions covered various aspects of Nelson Mandela’s life which all South Africans should be aware of to appreciate the sacrifices he had made for our freedom. Students were encouraged to appreciate the opportunities which they have. A display was put up with the prizes in a display case to market the event. There were 4 book prizes which were sponsored by various publishers.
The competition was run for the day and the draw was held at 2:30pm in the PMB Main Library foyer.

1st prize was sponsored by Adams Booksellers and Stationers, “Man of the people: a photographic
tribute to Nelson Mandela by Peter Magubane”, and the winner was Kwanele Khathi.

2nd prize was sponsored by an anonymous donor, “Dare not linger: the presidential years by Nelson Mandela and Mandla Langa”, and the winner was Humaira Amod.

3rd prize was sponsored by Rainbow Academic Bookshop, “Good morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange”, and the winner was Thaiyeerah Sheik.

4th prize was sponsored by Van Schaik Bookstore, “Going to the mountain: life lessons from my grandfather, Nelson Mandela by Ndaba Mandela”, and the winner was Thabani Nkosi.

All the winners were informed via the email.

The last question in the competition asked “What does Nelson Mandela Day mean to you?” The responses to this question were phenomenal and inspiring. The entrants clearly embraced the example that Nelson Mandela aspired to be. Maybe they will inspire you as well:

“We are one nation, under one umbrella and moving forward as a rainbow nation”. Sphiwe Mzobe

“It’s a day to celebrate our freedom that Nelson Mandela had fought for and it is a day to give back to those less fortunate in and honour and remembrance of Tata Madiba”. Humaira Amod

“It’s the day whereby one can stand 67 minutes to do something good or help others on this day. This is the day to respect and honour the father of South Africa, Nelson Mandela”. Thabani Emmanel Nkosi
“Nelson Mandela is a hero and a man of the people. Mandela fought for the country and brought about the drastic change and the end of the apartheid regime. Mandela has brought peace, equality and amongst all love between races in our country, so to me, Nelson Mandela is a hero and fatherly figure. South African is a rainbow nation only because of him. He is a role model and a hero to me”. Thaiyeerah Sheik

“First I am celebrating Nelson Mandela’s birthday, and it means that you are able to do anything since Mandela spent 27 years in prison but was able to survive and that means to me every battle you are able to win every battle as long as you believe in yourself”. Kwanele Khathi

“Giving. He gave and dedicated all his time to South Africans, meaning I must also give back to the community that raised me to what I am today”. Siphiwe Tembe

“It means we are united and we must help one another”. Nhlakanipho Mdletshe

“This means that I must do good things for other people as he did to black people. Also to learn to forgive other people and be patient”. Mnqobi Nzama

“It is a great remembrance of the great leader who fought for freedom for the Republic of South Africa at large. Mandela sacrificed a lot for South Africa’s citizens and he led with dignity and advocating peace more than anything”. Sabelo Ngema

“It means doing great for other people and reshaping the environment you occupy to what you desire it to be”. Lindokule Cebekhulu

“It means I as an individual should make it my responsibility to give back to the society where I can since Nelson Mandela gave his precious time to serve 27 years in prison so that you and I can live in a democratic society”. S’bongakonko Mpunguse

“Selfless. Used his all to transform the world. Unifier. Charity. Nation builder. Resilience. Will power. Humble. He is immortal, will live forever for what he stood for, sacrificed and was willing to die for will benefit generations and generations”. Philisiwe Khanyile

“It means sustainable freedom of all nations and all races and all ages. It also means that success and what I understand as freedom comes through hard work, determination and ‘passion’”. Lindiwe Princess Maseko

“It is a day that we celebrate his good acts by showing the spirit of Ubuntu. Giving 67 minutes of one’s time to do good for someone or the environment. It does not have to be a big act”. Nonsi Shandu

“It’s a day of remembrance of how far we’ve come as a country and how special our country is. It’s a day of reflection that if we are more selfless, kind and helpful we’d do soo much”. Awonde Buthelezi

“A day to forgive people and help other people in need. To give back with a grateful heart. Nelson Mandela day also means that there is still hope for our South African country to do so much more”. Malwande Bhengu

“For me, it is a day to make an impact to transform the world, to help those in need”. Sinovuyo Sithole

“It is the day I get to celebrate the birth of an International Icon and, personally, my mentor who managed to make South Africa a democratic country. His determination and confidence still inspires millions, including myself”. Diyaksha Naiker

“It is a day to honour a man who managed to help an entire country gain its independence. It’s also to honour the person who gave us all equal rights and opportunities, which allow most of us to be studying at the university, like myself”. Kelansha Naidoo

“Nelson Mandela Day means celebrating the fact that we all have the power to transform the world the way in which Mandela did. It also means remembering his legacy and praising him for it. For me, it’s also about doing things that help one another”. Zama Nhlabathi

“It’s a constant reminder of the selfless sacrifice for hi country and people, and also reminds the people of South Africa what it took for the nation to be where it is today. His love for his people and also bringing about a democratic state which is founded on equality, freedom and that does not discriminate on any on the grounds such as race, gender or any of the prohibited grounds”. Andile Dlomo

“Mandela day is about giving back to the community and appreciating what Mandela has been through to make our lives, in this beautiful country, better”. Shanice Reewith

“Remembering a great legend that changed the life of South Africans forever”. Muzzammil Mohamed

“It means remembering what Nelson Mandela fought for, that is, human rights, equality and freedom. It means fighting for human rights for all humans, freedom and equality. It means creating a society free of discrimination”. Evans J Machengete

The display which was put up for the month of July and Nelson Mandela Day
Nelson Mandela said that [3]“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up”. Let his legacy inspire us to try our best in all that we do, to appreciate every opportunity that we receive and to never give up on our dreams. We are all winners. Let us go for gold!

[1] https://www.goalcast.com/2017/05/02/top-nelson-mandela-quotes-inspire-you-to-believe/
[2] https://www.goalcast.com/2017/05/02/top-nelson-mandela-quotes-inspire-you-to-believe/
[3] https://www.goalcast.com/2017/05/02/top-nelson-mandela-quotes-inspire-you-to-believe/

Monday, 19 August 2019


By William Dansoh with input from Rose Kuhn and Faith Magwaza

This piece is an extract from the literature review of a study which focused on the perspectives of key stakeholders (postgraduate students, librarians and academics) on the provision of library research support (LRS) to postgraduate students (PGS) in a tertiary institution (Dansoh, 2017).  It is a brief overview of some measures taken by some Australian academic libraries to enhance the support they provide to researchers. Four topics are briefly covered, namely, the five main research support services, the creation of new positions responsible for research, the training of research librarians and librarians writing and publishing academic papers.
The Australian libraries were selected as an example of best practice.  The educational contexts of the provision of LRS in Australia and South Africa have similarities and differences yet South African librarians are not far behind their counterparts in other countries when it comes to research support. The intention of this piece is to identify and adapt where possible some of the research support practices used in Australian libraries.  Reference is made to what UKZN library is doing to support research. 
Keller (2015) focused on changes in Australian university libraries in relation to supporting researchers.  Specifically, the study examined how existing library services, the job descriptions and key performance areas of subject or liaison librarians had been modified to accommodate the emerging trend of the academic library providing explicit support to researchers (Keller, 2015). Five main academic library services which support research were identified as:
  •  Institutional repositories,
  • Open access,
  • Bibliometrics and enhancement of research impact,
  • Support for research students (the focus of this study), and
  • Research data management (Keller, 2015, p.73).

Institutional Repositories
A well-developed network of institutional repositories exists in Australia.  The Institutional Repositories receive central support from the state and, consequently, have common standards and policies.  The publications in Institutional Repositories comprise a mixture of full text journal articles and open access journals.
The library collects and inputs the data.  The centralised nature of the Institutional Repositories enables the optimal capture of publications in an institution. Institutional Repositories are an essential part of research assessment in Australia. Research librarians are responsible for Institutional Repositories in most universities (Richardson et al., 2012; Keller, 2015). At UKZN the institutional repository (ResearchSpace) is managed by the library and whilst containing mainly masters and PhD theses, shows a growing collection of articles.

Open Access
Open access is part of Institutional Repositories in Australia. There is green and gold open access. Green open access is supported by Australian research councils and involves “self-deposit” in a repository while Gold open access involves publishing in an open access journal which requires payment from the author to cover the cost of processing the article (Keller, 2015). Some Australian universities and academic departments provide funds for gold open access with the objective of making their research output more visible and raising its impact factor (Keller, 2015). As part of research support provision, Australian universities provide workshops to researchers on publication strategies (Keller, 2015, Richardson et al., 2012). One of the strategic objectives of the University of KwaZulu-Natal is ‘impactful research’. The DVC Research in his opening statements at the International Open Access Week 2019: Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Access at UKZN, highlighted the importance of impactful research and its relevancy to industry, private sector, government and society at large.

Prof D. Ramjugernath (left) delivering opening remark and Prof. J. Smit (presenter) at the International Open Access Week 2018.

The support for Open Access at UKZN is growing though in little pockets. So far UKZN library has held a number of OA advocacy campaigns.
UKZN Library Open Access Strategy Team

 There is a growing trend in publishing in Gold Open Access by the Schools of Engineering, Health Sciences and some Humanities authors. About 37 + UKZN authors publish on Gold Open Access. ResearchSpace is a UKZN Institutional Repository (http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/) and publishes Masters and Doctoral theses and articles. Open Access Journals (OJS) (https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/) is another joint initiative by the Library and UKZN Journal Managers and editors/authors from Humanities, Health Sciences and Social Sciences. UKZN OpenJournals indexes journals that subscribe to the Open Access philosophy.

From left to right: Mr V Mbonye, Prof. B Mubangizi, Prof. J. Smit and Mrs Faith Magwaza.

Bibliometrics and enhancement of research impact
Researchers in Australia are encouraged to acquire a good understanding of bibliometrics as it is an important component of performance evaluation.  Research-support librarians consider themselves as ‘specialists and advisors’ in bibliometrics which has been given the umbrella name of Research Impact (Keller, 2015).  Librarians adopt a comprehensive approach rather than simply explaining the h-index in isolation by including all the stages in the research cycle and explaining the research impact of each stage.  Most Australian libraries provide full support for each phase of the research cycle to researchers.  There has been an increase in demand for research impact services in Australian libraries and this constitutes a challenge to research support librarians because the required skills are not taught in library schools. Librarians learn on the job with occasional assistance from vendors who give presentations (Keller, 2015). UKZN library provides a number of tools that facilitate identification of research impact such as the databases Scopus and ScienceDirect and related tools such as SciVal but more needs to be done in terms of developing librarian expertise in this area.

Support for research students
Many Australian academic libraries have put in place programmes and services specifically aimed at supporting higher degree research (Masters and Doctoral) students since universities are rewarded for successfully completed degrees, as is the case in other universities. Some of these services are post-graduate orientation seminars or workshops in research training. For example, individual consultations with students, research seminar series,  advanced training in information literacy and tailor-made alert services for research students (Keller, 2015, Richardson et al., 2012). Liaison librarians at the Australian Catholic University personalize research support for research students by sending  an e-mail to each higher degree research student at the beginning of their studies and  offering to meet with them individually (Keller, 2015).  UKZN library undertakes targeted outreach to postgraduates in the form of one-on-one support; regular general and subject specific training courses in information searching and retrieval and tools such as Endnote, and offers support via Libguides and limited alert services. The main libraries also provide very popular postgraduate research commons that are open 24/7.
Research data management
Most Australian libraries are involved in research data management.  The standards and policies relating to research are centralised due to centralised funding.  Research-data management in Australia was driven by the ‘Seeding the Commons’ project which was funded by the Australian National Data Service.  According to Keller (2015) this project required librarians to conduct structured interviews with researchers in the various academic departments.   Benefits of the interactions with researchers were, “building a central registry of research collections” and developing “a better understanding of the research life cycle” (Keller, 2015, p.79).There is a great variation in the levels at which Australian libraries are involved in data management (Richardson et al., 2012).  Some libraries advise researchers on how to map, manage and preserve research data.  Data-management advice is also given to Masters and Doctoral students (Richardson et al., 2012).  This is an area where UKZN libraries have just started to venture. UKZN will be using Figshare as a repository where users can make all of their research outputs available in a citable, shareable and discoverable manner.

Focus of liaison librarians on research support and the creation of research teams
In order to be more effective, research librarians in Australia moved away from working autonomously as individuals and, instead, work in teams. This ensures consistent levels of services and optimal use of “shared systems and tools” (Keller, 2015, p. 80). In addition to addressing subject-related queries from researchers, research librarians in Australia are expected to possess a thorough understanding of research impact, establish and maintain contacts with researchers, be active participants in university committees which are responsible for research and contribute towards the building and maintenance of institutional repositories and data collections (Keller, 2015). UKZN library is constantly looking at ways of improving research support in terms of direct and indirect communication with researchers using different media as well as inclusion in various university fora.

Definition of new positions responsible for research
An examination of the organisational charts of Australian universities by Keller (2015) revealed three positions which are linked to library-research support apart from liaison or subject librarians: institutional repository manager, research data management specialist and research support co-ordinators. The first two positions are self-explanatory so only the third position is briefly explained.  Research-support co-ordinators are responsible for communication between academic departments and librarians who are responsible for research support, the professional development of research librarians and the “strategic advancement of research-supporting services” (Keller, 2015, p.80).  The position of research-support co-ordinator cannot be found in all Australian universities and it is also not certain whether this position will be permanent or will no longer be required when library research support becomes a well-established component of the academic library (Keller, 2015).
Training research librarians
The transition from liaison and subject librarians into research support positions cannot happen on its own.  It must be accompanied by appropriate training and institutional support infrastructure and mechanisms which should all emanate from a broad institutional “ research support framework” (Zhao, 2014). The transition experiences and the challenges faced by a liaison librarian in Australia who became a data librarian were documented together with  the lessons for the development of new skills for research librarians which were identified (Brown et al., 2015).   Some of the implications for best practice that were highlighted are the following:

  • The need for formal training to be supplemented with “informal training, mentoring and support networks”;
  • The need to scope library roles “which support research to determine the skills and expertise required within a team, faculty and the institution”; and
  • The need to acknowledge that librarians may need to possess an “in-depth knowledge of the research process in specific disciplines” in order to work as a full partner in the research projects (Brown et al., 2015).
Even though the recommendations made by Brown et al., (2015) were made within the context of training as a data librarian, they are applicable to librarians who require training in any of the five main library-research support services mentioned earlier in this chapter.

Research librarians conducting original research and publishing
An academic activity that would enable research librarians to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the research process is conducting original research and publishing. Research and publishing by librarians in this context should be part of the professional development process in the provision of library research support. However, conducting original research and publishing is not usually taught in Library schools and so librarians do need support to develop these skills.  Here are some methods that are used to support librarians to write and publish academic papers in Australia and North America

  •  Informal & formal mentoring,
  • External training,
  • Peer mentoring,
  • Group training. (Berg et al., 2013, Sassen and Wahl, 2014).
Conducting original research and publishing promotes a deeper understanding of the research process and better equips the research librarian to perform her or his functions.  It also promotes evidence based librarianship. Finally, one may ask - why bother about Library Research Support? – One justification among many others is that knowledge production through research is one of the core functions of our parent institution.  This is therefore an opportunity to be an integral part of the research cycle and knowledge production process and at the same time, develop professionally.
There are many possible lessons that can be learnt from the Australian model of providing library research support, two of which are the formation of “research teams” by librarians rather than working as individuals and secondly, the provision of a series of library-led postgraduate research seminars but with seminar content informed by expressed postgraduate students’ research information needs.  Finally, a parting reflection from a retired librarian who has walked the paths of both librarian and a postgraduate research student.   Postgraduate students, especially doctoral students, work under a lot of stress, writer’s block, that chapter which would not come together in a coherent form, looming submission deadlines… to mention a few the stressors.  Librarians can go the extra mile to provide research support to “stressed” postgraduate students. I recently met a senior academic at UKZN who completed his doctoral studies some 10 years ago and he said “William, I still remember how you helped me in the library when I was a frustrated student”.  Going the extra mile to support the researcher is remembered long after the service is rendered and that can be rewarding.
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BROWN, A., WOLSKI, M. & RICHARDSON, J. 2015. Developing new skills for research support librarians. The Australian Library Journal, 64, 224 - 234.
DANSOH, W. A. 2017. The provision of library research support tp postgraduate students: perspectives of key stakeholders in a tertiary institution: a case study Doctor of Philosophy, School of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.
KELLER, A. 2015. Research support in Australian university libraries : an outsider view. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 46, 73 - 85.
RICHARDSON, J., NOLAN-BROWN, T. & LORIA, P. 2012. Library research support in Queensland : a survey. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 43, 258 -277.
SASSEN, C. & WAHL, D. 2014. Fostering research publication in academic libraries. College and Research Libraries, 75, 458 - 491.
ZHAO, L. 2014. Riding the wave of open access : providing library research support for scholarly publishing literacy. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 45, 3 - 18.