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Friday, 10 July 2020

Locked down into extinction or zooming our way into the future?

by Jillian Viljoen
Since the beginning of the South African lockdown, universities have been closed due to the risk of contracting COVID-19. Wearing of masks, washing and sanitising of hands and social distancing have been emphasized every day, everywhere. A tiny virus impacted our lives in a significant way, not just in South Africa but globally. We are living what is called a “new normal”.

When the lockdown was announced, my first thoughts were “What about us? How will we continue working during the lockdown? How will we still remain relevant? How can we still provide a service? Are we going to become extinct?”. These questions and many others raced through my mind during the first month. The loss of employment and economic empowerment is always a huge concern for everyone. Economic empowerment is a vital part of survival.

With access to Information Technology (IT) and the internet, the UKZN subject librarians were, fortunately, still able to provide a service to the university community. Communication was maintained via email. We had the option of using Skype for Business and we adapted to using Zoom. Meetings were and still are held via Zoom. Training sessions on the use of the library’s resources to find information are held via Zoom and make it so much easier for participants to join remotely. Zoom adheres to the social distancing protocol. The only challenge is when IT goes on the blink but those glitches are to be expected.

To be honest, I had heard of Zoom but had never used it until the lockdown. Who would have thought
that a tiny virus would have resulted in me learning a new skill; the use of Zoom. Teaching remotely is very different to physical interaction but it allows us to reach more individuals simultaneously. And you can do all this from the comfort of your home; in your pj’s or any informal attire. Brilliant! Although, I must admit that some days I am all zoomed out. Too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad for you, and exhausting.

So, panic and anxiety averted; I have an answer to my question.
We are not locked down into extinction and will not be as dead as a dodo. We are zooming our way into the future, looking forward to new skills and new horizons. We are still relevant. Watch this space … We may just zoom our way into your living room. How-do-you-do!

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