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Thursday, 23 April 2020

# UKZN Library Student Assistants #

by Sushiela Naidoo
For many years academic libraries have employed hundreds of students to maintain crucial functions in the Library. Student employees, also recognized as student workers and student assistants, have played a pivotal role in the library environment and they occupy a large portion of the library staff complement. Over the years, UKZN library personnel have realised that without student assistants/ workers, the libraries would not be able to provide essential services to the university community. The UKZN library is one of the largest employers of students in the university. Each year a percentage of the library budget is allocated for the employment of student assistants.

The Library recruits student workers and equips them with the necessary skills to perform responsibilities that are vital for the functioning of libraries in the absence of permanent library staff. Without the student assistants, the library could not remain open 24 hours during the academic terms of the university; costs for staffing the circulation desk would increase, and assistance to students after hours would not be possible.

Around the middle of October each year, the various UKZN libraries advertise the positions of student library assistants for each of the five campuses. Statistics have indicated that an overwhelming number of students respond to the advertisement. The number of student assistants employed by the library in 2020 across the five campuses is just below 200. Students are employed to ensure that the libraries offer a service to the university community on weekdays from 16h00-08:00 and on the weekends and public holidays from 08:00.  A 24/7 library service is only possible with our student assistants helping to keep our libraries operational.  

Over the years it has been found that student assistants are drawn to library jobs and stay for a variety of reasons. Some mentioned the atmosphere and the working environment, others enjoyed helping patrons, and others mentioned they were encouraged by a friend or relative, and for many financial assistance.

From the library’s perspective, students gain practical work experience, as well as team building, organizing, and supervisory skills. In addition to meeting the library’s needs, student employment in the library also impacts students who are financially disadvantaged to continue with their academic studies at the university. As a result, students are instilled with positive social integration and persistence [RK1] [SN2] at the university. Students who are faced with financial challenges in particular are given an opportunity to work at the library. Students are able to use the revenue generated from working at the library to assist with their meals, photocopying and purchasing of resources to ensure that their academic needs are met.  

Students who have worked at the library have always expressed their gratitude in terms of the income received from the Library. One of the previous students employed by the library indicated that “the income she earned from working at the library did not only help to pay for the completion of her academic studies but she was able to purchase a door for her home to protect her family”.
1Edgewood student assistants with Shirley Pillay, Colin Chetty, Mukesh Kemrajh, Sithembile Ngobese & Zanele Mthembu

The UKZN Library staff are always proud to be part of the student assistant’s journey at the university. One of the student assistants who worked at the library during the completion of his Master’s in Education degree has always expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to work at the library. He has said that working at the library had given him an opportunity to develop his confidence and helped him persevere with his academic studies.

Mr Clinton Chidiebere Anyanwu has completed his doctorate and he is currently employed by the Edgewood campus as an academic.  On behalf of the library staff, we would like to congratulate Mr Clinton Chidiebere Anyanwu on his achievement. The UKZN library staff extends its appreciation to all past, present and future student assistants and thanks them for their contribution in helping to assist the university community.

Benjamina, M. & McDevitt, T. 2018. The benefits and challenges of working in an academic library: a study of student library assistant experience. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 44(Issue 2,), 256-262.
Fuller, F. Jay. 1990. Evaluating student assistants as library employees. College & Research Libraries News, 51(1) 11-14.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Man and Machine: the shifting dynamic of the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolutions

by Praba Naidoo
Each industrial revolution has brought with it phenomenal changes in terms of the use of sophisticated machinery to make our work easier and faster. During the first three Industrial Revolutions, as humans we had little or no idea that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) would become a part of our lifestyle.

With the accelerated development in AI, the internet of things, robotics, augmented reality, and virtual reality, concepts associated with the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) - are words we are all familiar with. Libraries world-wide are increasingly deploying robots and AI for varied reasons, resulting in the dynamic change in the evolution of our jobs. As librarians, we need to focus on reskilling and embracing new training opportunities in order to thrive in our jobs, and to address the challenges we are faced with.
Technologies of 4IR have made it possible for us to shop online, book airfares and
hotel/Air/BnB accommodation, pay our bills, book a ride such as Bolt Taxi or Uber, utilise health applications (apps) that enable us to track the number of steps we have taken in a day, or to track our calorie intake and the like.              
Blockchain is an ingenious invention whereby information is distributed without being copied.  Blockchain, best known for digital currency Bitcoin, brings supply chain management thinking into all kinds
of activities that libraries undertake. Blockchain’s financial applications makes it possible to use blockchain-based currencies like bitcoin to purchase library materials such as databases with the potential to eliminate exchange rate problems between libraries and publishers.

In our continent Africa, some countries have yet to enjoy the benefits of the 2nd Industrial Revolution such as electricity. And talking about electricity, with our continuous load-shedding from Eskom, would smart grids instead of a centralised grid be the answer to our problems? A smart grid will ensure a regular, sustainable electricity supply, with fewer losses and greater reliability and security.

Some differences between ‘Man’ and Machine:

Are the services and trajectories of humanity being obscured by the power of 4IR and its economic benefits? There is a great sense of concern that 4IR is taking humans out of work, increasing our already elevated unemployment situation and creating a grim future for the next generation. The answer to these problems may be addressed in the imminent 5th Industrial Revolution.
What are some of the changes we would like to see in the next Industrial Revolution – 5th Industrial Revolution?
  • Would we like a world that is better than just being one that is more productive, more efficient and makes more financial profit?
  • Would climate change, sustainable living and saving our environment be considered?
  • Step in space with affordable space travel
  • Are we ready for driverless cars?


  1. Smart Grids: http://www.sustainable.org.za/userfiles/final%20macro%20smart%20grids%20lr.pdf  (Accessed 03/03/2020)
  2. Smart Electricity Grids: https://setis.ec.europa.eu/system/files/Technology_Information_Sheet_Smart_Grids.pdf  (Accessed 03/03/2020)
  3. Library Future Reimagined for the Fourth Industrial Revolution: UJ case study, Presented by: Christina Nomathamsanqa Mafumana, LIASA Conference 01 October 2019
  4. What is Blockchain Technology: https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/

Friday, 28 February 2020

Issues & Returns - New Circulation Desk at EGM Library

By Omesh Jagarnath

Libraries are constantly evolving to meet the needs of its users in an effort to provide an efficient and excellent service to its patrons. Hence, the re-configuring of space to improve both security (of staff and student library assistants who are employed in the evenings), as well as academic reserve books and ensuring a centralised service point for users, is something that has been under discussion for many months.
 At the EGM library, Howard College Campus, an existing space, namely the old Research Commons, was identified by the space committee and in consultation with the circulation staff, this space was seen as ideal for reconfiguration.
The existing infrastructure was already in place, namely an enclosed glass partition with swipe access. Work on this new space commenced in November 2019 with the removal of the old furniture and computers, while a contractor was called to reconfigure the glass to create a window like opening for the counter on both sides of the room.
Work on reconfiguring the interior and creating the Issue and Return counters began in early December 2019. As there was no budget for the project, library staff took it upon themselves to purchase material for this space.
Mr Richard Goodall, a jack of all trades, decided to put his carpentry skills to good use.

Taking Shape

Staff Workstations
It has taken hours of labour and planning to ensure that the work done is professional and attractive. The above pictures shows the staff workstations being configured.

Completion – Service Point for Library Users - View from the outside

It has taken almost two and half months to complete the configuration with minor alterations and final touches added as we go along. Staff moved into the new space on the 13th February 2020.

There has been a lot of positive comments from some academics who were amazed by the quality of the workmanship, so all credit goes to Mr Goodall.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Boarding the # train for the love of the library

by Jillian Viljoen

14 February is traditionally known as Valentine’s Day; a day of romance where couples express their love for each other. Stores are usually decorated with red hearts. Valentine’s cards, flowers, candy and other sweet things and romance is the order of the day. But should expression of love between people be the only celebration on Valentine’s Day? What about celebrating our love for our libraries?

With this in mind, the PMB UKZN library promoted the idea of love for the library with a “photo
booth” and a display board where students could write what they loved about the library. Staff handed out lollipops to students, encouraging them to participate in the initiative.

The idea was a resounding success, with students and staff taking selfies and posting them online. The tag line was “#Love the UKZN library”. Even the security staff got in on the action.

To add to the festive atmosphere, staff wore red, in keeping with the
Valentine’s Day traditional colour scheme. On the whole, the initiative was well received by students and staff. If you thought that libraries just contained books and were boring spaces, think again. Come and visit the library. You may just walk in on another exciting event.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Moving and shaking – UKZN library moving into 2020

by Rosemary Kuhn 

The Library gets ever busier and 2019 was no exception and so will be 2020. All the time the Library is responding to technological enhancements and trying to improve the library / information experience for its users in terms of functionality and services and the physical environment.
Late last year the Library launched its new website with enhanced functionality and it is now in line with the university ‘look’. Tweaks are still being made and suggestions and comments are welcome.

The Library also launched Yabelana, a research data management platform and use of the Open Journals System (OJS) is gathering momentum. (Links on the library website).
In order to enhance the interlibrary loan (ILL) system the Library has endorsed Tipasa, “a cloud-based ILL management system for libraries that want to share and obtain materials through different resources and systems, as well as provide an exceptional experience for the patron.”  Basically, the ILL process is now more fully integrated into the circulation system and users can now also submit ILL requests via their ‘my library account’ and follow the progress of their requests.
There is a God! Finally, the Pietermaritzburg main library has air-conditioning! Oh, what bliss in this heat! A huge generator has been installed and is working well so load shedding is less stressful than in the past. Work continues on the LAN for the Disability Unit in the main library and the student toilets are being upgraded, all accompanied by lots of noise and dust. New chairs were procured for all the study desks. At the Life Sciences Library the staff toilets were upgraded. Carpet cleaning is currently underway. Our thanks go to ICS for helping us maintain all our computers in the training LAN, Research Commons and PCs.
At Howard College campus, the major event of the year was the launch of the new postgraduate Research Commons which was relocated to the first floor of the EG Malherbe Library. The new facility is huge, with not only group study rooms, but private study rooms, ‘comfy’ areas and plenty of computers. These facilities in all the libraries are becoming ever more popular.
At Edgewood and Westville libraries, LANS for Disability Unit students were completed and Edgewood is awaiting the completion of its air-conditioning. Bridge Publications is donating a substantial number of Scientology Books written by acclaimed author, L. Ron Hubbard to all campus libraries; the first batch has just been received by the Westville Library. Ashika Pramlal organized a function to exhibit these books.
Dr N Ngcobo; Ms M Webster; Professor Sunil Maharaj (Mathematical Sciences) and Dr P Sukram at the exhibition.
At all libraries, a stock take has commenced, it being several years since this was last done, and this is being spearheaded by circulation staff.
For subject librarians, an increasing amount of effort is being put into training for users. Indeed the
academic information environment is complex and information discovery and use is not always intuitive to the end user. Not only are presentations offered during Orientation but the libraries offer hands on training in the use of databases for new students, and Endnote during the first term, discipline-specific classes and postgraduate outreach. The Library is increasing its partnering with other facilities and people to organize related training in programmes such as SPSS, Nvivo, Word basics and more. Already many subject librarians have participated in Orientation Week activities and we are ready for a hectic term.

Library staff keep their skills up to date with regular training offered by vendors and experts.
On a different note, the Library Director Ms Joyce Myeza leaves UKZN Library after five years at the helm. She is staying in the province but moving out of librarianship. We wish her all the best in her new venture and thank her for her commitment to the development of the library and its staff.
Watch out 2020, here comes the UKZN Library staff all ready for the new year!