Resignation of Gwenda Thomas, ED: Libraries

09 March 2018 | From the VC’s Desk

Dear students and colleagues

I am writing to inform you that Ms Gwenda Thomas, the executive director of UCT Libraries, has submitted her resignation with effect from 30 April 2018. Gwenda will be taking up the position of Director of Scholarly Services (University Librarian) at the University of Melbourne, Australia, in May.

Gwenda took up her current position in 2011. At that time, UCT Libraries was in the process of a full review that began in 2010. She was responsible for continuing to implement the recommendations of the review and the broader five-year planning cycle through to 2014. This was in response to increased demand for electronic, online and digital resources; the slowdown in print journal growth; the increased emphasis on support for postgraduates; the increased need for undergraduates to study collaboratively; and the fore-fronting of the university’s distinctive African special collections, both print and digital.

Gwenda and her team have kept UCT Libraries in line with current best international practice in leading academic libraries, and they have enhanced the libraries’ ability to support research, teaching and learning. UCT Libraries, motivated by the university’s vision and mission, continually strive to maintain their position as a leading academic library firmly located in Africa, whose services, facilities, collections and expertise are recognised globally and nationally for innovation and sector leadership.

Some of the more notable achievements of UCT Libraries under Gwenda’s leadership include:

  • The positioning of the Library and Information Studies Centre as the leading education centre on the continent with continued student growth trajectory. The proximity of the academic library and the Library School has fostered a strong synergy between practitioners and educators.
  • The bringing together of all of UCT’s Special Collections for the first time in 2011, showcasing and providing greater access to the university’s distinctive collections, which are the hallmark of research-intensive institutions. This included increasing the Special Collections archival storage space with a state-of-the-art archive facility, and the 2012 restoration of the Jagger Reading Room.
  • The launch of the libraries’ Open Scholarship webpage, which supports the UCT research community with an FAQ section for a range of services, including open access publishing, electronic theses and dissertations, open educational resources, open access publishing fund, and copyright guidelines.
  • The implementation of UCT’s Open Access Policy and the institutional repository known as OpenUCT, which has risen steadily in the Webometrics Ranking Web of Repositories since debuting there in 2015. In the most recent ranking (January 2017), the OpenUCT repository placed 342nd (out of 2 284) in the world, sixth (out of 74) in Africa, and fifth (out of 22) in South Africa.
  • The launch of the Digital Archive website in 2015 to celebrate 14 unique local collections (with more than 14 000 rare digital objects) and to help preserve South African heritage and make it discoverable and accessible for research and teaching.
  • The launch in October 2017 of ZivaHub, the first fully functioning open access institutional data repository implemented by an academic library in South Africa, which enables researchers and the institution at large to make research data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.
  • The completion of various milestone library building projects, resulting in the repurposing of significant areas of physical space in the main and branch libraries to enhance the user experience. These included digital and preservation services facilities; the installation of mobile shelving in the main library and some branches; the upgrade of staff accommodation; establishing a researcher engagement space with a state-of-the art data visualisation wall; positive engagement with students for after-hours study areas, resulting in five 24/7 study facilities across the campuses, including custom-designed space for patrons with disabilities; and the Library Learning Lounge, which facilitates active learning in collaborative spaces.

Please join me in thanking Gwenda for her service to UCT and in wishing her well in her future endeavours.

Yours sincerely

Dr Max Price

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