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Thursday 13 June 2024

Working over 40 years at UKZN Library Services: some reflections (Dr. Praversh Sukram)

By Praversh Sukram

My first day of work at the University was on Monday 5 January 1981 on the Pietermaritzburg Campus.

I commenced working in the Collection Maintenance section of the Library. Some of my tasks included:

  • Re-shelving of Library materials
  • Shelf-reading
  • Preparing and recording of Inter-Library Loan items that needed to be posted to Libraries in South Africa and abroad
  • Repairing and binding of books
  • Attaching of spine labels and University branding on books and journals
  • Shelf construction
  • Assisting in certain sections of the Library when staff were away on leave.

The first major change took place in 1982 with the introduction of a computer system for the library called URICA integrated Library system. This led to the automation of all library functions. Not many Librarians would have envisaged the Library without the Card Catalogue.

The Card Catalogue

In July 1990 the Pietermaritzburg Main Library was renovated to include an additional floor and passenger lifts. The stair case on the ground floor was demolished to accommodate additional slabbing for the first floor. This resulted in scaffolding been erected on the ground floor to support the slabbing on the first floor.

The journals, which were housed on the ground floor had to be stored in boxes. There were occasions when journals had to be retrieved from the boxes for users. The journals were relocated to the first floor.

The Library remained open during the renovations. The renovations were completed in 1991.


Pietermaritzburg Library before the renovations


The merging of University of Durban-Westville and University of Natal in 2004 brought about a number of opportunities for the Library.

One of these opportunities was for colleagues from the Libraries of University of Natal, Durban and Pietermaritzburg campuses having a closer working relationship. Prior to the merger many staff from these Libraries did not know each other. Interaction between staff was limited as these Libraries worked independently of each other.

The Libraries of University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal navigated through the merger to form a Library that has become integral in supporting teaching and learning at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). A number of efficiencies were created.

The Circulation desk at the Main Library on the Pietermaritzburg campus was centralised to include Course Reserves which was located on the lower ground floor. This allowed for a more streamlined service with productive use of staff and space. The centralisation of the Circulation desk at the Main Library was modelled on the Circulation desks at branch libraries.

This model was adopted at other campus libraries.

In 2016 the Main Libraries and some Branch Libraries began opening 24/7. The Libraries are staffed by Student Assistants after hours. The centralised Circulation desks made 24/7 opening more cost effective.

Research Commons, to cater for the research needs of Masters and PhD students, were built in all Main Libraries.

More recently Accessibility LANs were built at Edgewood, Pietermaritzburg and Westville Campus Libraries. Planning for Accessibility LANs at EG Malherbe Library and the Medical School Library are at an advanced stage.

Discussions have commenced about creating Social Learning Spaces in the Libraries. 

The UKZN Library Services Strategy Plan (2023-2032) positions the Library to continue providing support for teaching and learning for the University to achieve its goals in an ever-changing environment.



1.    University Archives and Library colleagues for confirming dates when events had taken place.




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