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Monday, 02 November 2020

Libraries’ Director highlights the benefits of collaborations at Oxford University

COLLABORATIONS: Libraries’ Director, Dr Elisha Chiware says CPUT is recognised as one of the leaders in contributions towards the growth and development of regional and international librarianship. COLLABORATIONS: Libraries’ Director, Dr Elisha Chiware says CPUT is recognised as one of the leaders in contributions towards the growth and development of regional and international librarianship.

CPUT Libraries’ Director, Dr Elisha Chiware accentuated the values and benefits of collaborations and partnerships among academic and research libraries in Southern Africa in the provision of better library and information services in response to universities’ goals of teaching, learning and research.

Chiware said this during his presentation at the Oxford Library 700 Virtual Conference which took place recently.

The conference was held to celebrate the 700-year anniversary of the historical Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. He joined over 30 other renowned international scholars who presented on a range of topics to mark the momentous occasion.

He says: “We [CPUT] are recognised as leaders in our contributions towards the growth and development of regional and international librarianship.”

He says the 700th anniversary gave him an opportunity to reflect on the role that libraries have played and continue to play in society. The conference, therefore, considered the past, present, and future of libraries in a broad context and was graced by academics from relevant disciplines, leading practitioners from the world of libraries and archives as well as specialists from the world of media, science and communication to discuss and debate the place of libraries.

Chiware’s presentation was on “Higher Education Libraries in Southern Africa: Collaborations, Partnerships and the Future. The presentation focused on the development of higher education and how libraries in the sub-region (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) have over the years built regional, national and international collaborations to foster the delivery of library and information services.

He explored the growth of both publicly and privately funded higher education which has developed over the years; starting with accelerated growth in post-independence periods and then followed by periods of decline due to lower government funding, as well as the de-regulation which followed and paved the way for the growth of private funded higher education.

“Libraries have always been at the centre of higher education projects globally and continue to play that critical role. Over the years, libraries have developed various types of collaborations and partnerships in order to broaden the access to information resources to their users.”

With the advances in Information, Communications and Technologies (ICT) and the Internet, Chiware says the collaborations have grown and assumed new dimensions leading to achieving even better economies of scale in the sharing of resources and ensuring the speedy delivery of information to all who pursue higher education and research in various scientific domains.

“Some of the major achievements of the academic and research libraries’ collaborations in Southern Africa, include the setting up of national library consortia, the reduction of subscription costs, wider and inclusive access to print and electronic resources, the establishment of Library Directors’ fora & special interest groups, joint training programmes and joint mobilisation of international donor funding which has been critical in some of the poorer countries.”

He adds that in some countries like South Africa, the higher education libraries sector has set up a national library statistics database.

In his prediction, the Covid-19 pandemic has given the sector a new impetus for enhanced collaborations as libraries see a greater need for sharing resources remotely. The future, according to Chiware, will be determined by how libraries, not only in Southern Africa but the whole African continent, will respond to Open Science/Open Access and Open Data initiatives and firmly place libraries in the knowledge production ecosystems from their inception, investigation, analysis, storage and facilitation for re-use of research data and other research workflows supported through library systems.

“Academic libraries have to be visible in the conception, design and development and use of research infrastructures and have to play an important role in publishing teaching and open educational resources and build secure platforms for the storage of all university intellectual outputs.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce