UCT Libraries

30 October 2023 Read time 5 min.
Ujala Satgoor, executive director of UCT Libraries <b>Photo</b> Lerato Maduna.
Ujala Satgoor, executive director of UCT Libraries Photo Lerato Maduna.

This reporting period focused on business continuity and the return to campus, monitoring the effectiveness of a hybrid working and service model for UCT Libraries; the ongoing post-Jagger disaster efforts to reconcile collections and finalise losses, working on the formulation of the insurance claims, identifying and pursuing conservation priorities, and most importantly, mainstreaming recovery, progress reports and presentations, including financial costs and implications to the extended leadership and University Building & Development Committee on the Jagger Fire and future planning.

Return to campus

The lifting of the national state of disaster on 4 April and subsequent repeal of all COVID-19 regulations on 23 June necessitated a return to a full service within UCT Libraries with a responsible conduct mindset in place. This included the voluntary wearing of masks, availability of hand sanitisers and sani-wipes, and physical distancing of desks and workstations.

Some of the critical issues that guided our decisions included the implementation of a contactless circulation environment; managing access to the various study spaces in the libraries; and engendering a healthy work environment that included a focus on mental and emotional well-being of staff.

Furthermore, the guiding principles underpinning this return to campus were:

  1. Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002): Code of Practice: Managing exposure to SARS-COV-2 in the Workplace, 2022.
  2. UCT is a residential university and the concomitant implications/responsibilities thereof towards contact teaching, learning and research.
  3. Alignment of UCT Libraries services and spaces to 2 (above) to ensure a more integrated and dynamic learning experience for students.
  4. Engendering a safe and healthy environment for staff and students in line with national and institutional guidelines and protocols.

Two consultations were held with staff on 24 March in response to the vice-chancellor’s call for a return to campus. During these sessions staff shared their concerns about ventilation, shared spaces, vaccination status of staff and students, and on-site protocols. Staff were reassured that the hybrid service model was informed by service-related job requirements, flexibility and scheduling, and new ways of working, productivity and efficiencies.

For this to be put into effect, a series of conversations were held with Dr Sherin Bickrum on re-grouping to thrive in the “new normal”. The four one-day sessions, held on 11, 12, 21 and 22 April were structured to ensure every staff member from PC 5 to PC 10 was a participant therein, and understood the importance of the return to campus, personal health and emotional well-being implications, and our joint responsibility to foster the environment that would enable all to thrive.

Research and learning

Scholarly and research capabilities: The reimagination of information literacy in the form of scholarly and research capabilities is underpinned by the need to address the inequities within the education system and the provision of the students with context to embrace scholarly and research capabilities. There has been significant engagement between the Centre for Higher Education Development and UCT Libraries to understand the influence of the school education system on scholarly and research capabilities. The engagement was then extended to the teaching and learning task team, and interspersed with discussions with students, resulted in the production of the first module, “Tackling your first assignment” in a series of modules planned in the roll-out of the scholarly and research capabilities programme. The forthcoming modules include, “Information gathering”, “Literature review” and “Reference management” as mapped to the research lifecycle to give meaning and context.

Bibliometrics services

UCT Libraries’ bibliometrics service is fast gaining momentum. The main aim of the bibliometrics services is to assist researchers in showcasing their research impact, particularly post publication. Even though impact is a broad term, the bibliometrics team used analytical library databases to find traces of impact indicators for inclusion in the impact reports.

In 2022, support was provided during the three peak seasons, namely March–April, May–July and the last quarter of the year. In the first quarter, the main service was providing South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) closeout reports. Towards the middle of the year, the major service was providing support to ad-hominem promotions and several nominations, as well as grant applications. During the last quarter of the year, the team focused on the first phase of National Research Foundation (NRF)-rating applications and SARChI reviews.

For the first time in late 2022 the Research Office provided the team with a priority list of NRF-rated researchers whose rating would expire at the end of 2023. Given the volume of researchers on the list, the team has taken proactive steps of contacting researchers by prioritising the C-, P-, and  Y-rated researchers as part of the first phase. The second phase of contacting the A- and B-rated researchers and supporting their application commenced at the beginning of December 2022. The table below highlights the support provided by the team in 2022.

Additionally, the team provided several information sessions at the Emerging Researchers Programme, the NRF rating library session, and the ad-hominem session at a few departments. Internally the team also hosted a series of training sessions to upskill interested library staff. This was an initiative to keep library staff up to date with new developments of the bibliometrics tools (analytical library databases).


UCT Press

After more than twenty years, the UCT Press imprint is back with UCT and is now physically located in the library since January 2022. Given the success of UCT Libraries’ publishing service, UCT Press is part of the Scholarly Communication and Publishing section. The university press is premised on the adoption of the diamond open access model, which is in alignment with Vision 2030’s social-justice focus and to make the institution’s scholarship as accessible and visible on the continent first and then to the world. This model is rapidly becoming the model of choice across the world and has been advocated for by UCT Libraries since 2015. It also ensures copyright remains with the authors, with a Creative Commons BY licence for optimal sharing and re-use.

UCT Press has a website, with a growing catalogue of open-access books that had been held by the previous publisher and were not being sold as hard copies in bookstores. These 67 back list titles are now available and the total downloads of the books are 8 466 (as of 25 November 2022), having been made discoverable and accessible for a short four to five months.

The website allows the functionalities of the academic workflow of submitting book proposals, allowing the editorial board to review these proposals, as well as the process of peer review and then displaying the published books. Prospective authors can view the guidelines to submit their book proposal, as well as track the status of the publishing workflow on the website.

Besides the free-to-download PDF of all the books, the UCT Press will have the print-on-demand function available, which will allow books to be purchased in hard- or paper-bound book format. From 2023 UCT Press will engage with a preferred vendor, African Sun Media, to provide a wide range of publishing activities that will contribute to a successful press. The full suite of activities includes managing the peer process, language editing, copy layout, cover design and distribution of the end product through multiple platforms.

The UCT Press project management team, chaired by Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation Professor Sue Harrison, with members of the board, meet every month to ensure the smooth transition of the university press into the libraries.

First anniversary of the Table Mountain fire

Several events were held to commemorate the first anniversary on 18 April 2022. In her first anniversary communiqué, the executive director (ED) of UCT Libraries, Ujala Satgoor, described the preceding year as “a year of exhaustion and exhilaration; a year of despair and hope; a year of retreat and advancement; a year which stretched and challenged our thinking about heritage buildings, archives and special collections, our capacity to recover and resilience to take on new roles and responsibilities, and the generosity of the human spirit to be a part of something bigger than the individual self, and most importantly, a year of closing old and opening new doors to new paths and new beginnings”. Details of the various restoration initiatives and donor-funded projects are available at Memory@UCT .

A visit to the Jagger Reading Room one year after the fire.

There is still a mountain of work to be done, which will take a few years and require additional personnel and funding, we do not believe the reconceptualising and rebuilding of the library should be rushed. It should be seen within the context of the overall UCT Libraries 10-year spatial and design plan for coherence to an African context. It also allows us the opportunity to re-think Special Collections given our checkered political history and continued socio-economic disparities, the role of the library, librarians and archivists in building, preserving and making accessible these collections, the location and requirements of a new working archive and how do we transition to ‘living archives’ by enabling the convergence of historical narratives and present experiences and commentary for new contextual meaning and relevance.

Exhibitions: Two exhibitions were launched to commemorate this event, namely:

  1. A Tribute to the Human Spirit, a Jagger wrap-around exhibition which honours the efforts and contributions of every person who made this salvage process truly worthwhile.
  2. Of Smoke and Ash, a collaborative initiative between the Centre for Curating the Archive and UCT Libraries at the Michaelis Galleries from 20 April to 13 May.
Could not find declared gallery.
The “Of Smoke and Ash” exhibiton

Reporting to the extended leadership

A presentation titled “Jagger Library Fire: An Update and Considerations” was made to the extended executive by the ED: Libraries on 21 June. This detailed the salvage and recovery actions and costs incurred to date. Several discussions were held, resulting in the extension to the Maitland House lease by an additional 12 months and the exploration of premises to house the new archives.

Jagger Fire and Recovery Collection

Keeping a record of an event of this size and scale is a huge challenge, and the decision was taken from the outset to capture all aspects of this event daily. Given the keen interest shown from day one, it was our duty to share our story and experiences.

The new Jagger Fire and Recovery Collection website has been launched on Ibali, the UCT Libraries digital showcase platform, and provides an excellent window into disaster recovery, managing communication and the human experience.

Stars of Hope: Finally let us take courage and hope from the Stars of Hope mounted in the entrance way of the Main Library, which were created by teen members of the Oceanside Public Library in New York and sent to us after hearing about the Jagger fire. Their messages of hope serve as a constant reminder that by journeying together we will reach our new destination.

Commemoration service: A special commemoration event was held with the UCT Libraries staff on 19 April within the Jagger site during which staff shared their memories and reflections.

A symposium, co-hosted by the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative and HUMA at UCT, was held on 18 and 19 April. It drew on the memorialisation of the Jagger Library fire and the salvage of its archives to reflect on broader questions of archive and loss in Africa and African Studies. It brough together several speakers from institutes across the continent to collectively reflect on archival loss, its implications for considering African Studies as a field, and the future of the Black Archive. Presentations were made by:

  • Michal Singer & Mandy Noble. The salvage and recovery of Special Collections: a year in review
  • Ujala Satgoor. The Jagger Library: A Moment in time, a place in history – reflections on libraries and archives

Special projects

The Herbert Baker collections held by UCT Libraries were affected by water damage and extensive restoration was needed to restore items before digitisation. Given the influence and impact of Sir Herbert Baker on South African architecture across the country, the decision was made to prepare, restore and digitise this collection in its entirety. This consideration for outsourcing was based on the need for both physical restoration and digitisation for preservation thereafter. The French heritage company Memorist SA was commissioned to provide the comprehensive end-to-end restoration and digitisation for preservation of the original architectural drawings and plans of Herbert Baker and partners. Following a conservation audit of the entire set of maps and plans to assess restoration work required and to quantify the collection more accurately, it was found that the collection totalled more than 11 000 items, much greater than the initial estimate of 6 500. The documents were physically arranged by the UCT Libraries Special Collections team and handed over to Memorist SA following the audit. The Memorist SA team set up their studio on-site, which allowed for enhanced agility and collegial exchange between Memorist SA and the Special Collections staff. Memorist SA cleaned, restored (as per international conservation protocols) and digitised 11 074 items within the Herbert Baker collection.

For South African Heritage Day, 24 September, this project was showcased on the UCT Libraries’ Special Collections dedicated blog Memory@UCT. Visit the blog .

Before and After: samples of Category 3 conservation interventions by Memorist SA

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