A future-facing academic library
For the University of Cape Town (UCT) Libraries, 2021 was defined by business continuity and business interruption precipitated by challenging circumstances. As we were gaining a better grip on the Virtual Library Services introduced in 2020 and navigating UCT Libraries through the changing COVID-19 lockdown regulations, levels and conditions, our foundations were shaken to the core with the unexpected fire that destroyed the Jagger Library on 18 April 2021. These two unprecedented situations required a new compass to navigate crises and recovery.
During 2021, UCT Libraries’ role as a publisher enjoyed significant success. In addition to publishing five monographs, it published the first Sesotho open-access book, Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe (loosely translated as “Tears do not fall in vain”), authored by academic Dr Rethabile Possa-Mogoera.
UCT Libraries formalised its collaboration with the Association of African Universities to actively promote open publishing on the African continent and to utilise the continental platform for the publishing of open access journals and open access monographs and textbooks.
UCT Libraries received the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Inaugural Award for the published work of the textbook, Constitutional Law for Students. The international award from the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) recognised that the principles which piloted the publication of this textbook were guided by social justice imperatives. More about the award can be read on the LPC’s Award announcement blog post.
The Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Awards aim to recognise members of the UCT community who make an outstanding contribution to the university’s mission and objectives through innovation or improvement in services, and/or sustained exceptional performance in an area or areas beneficial to the university and its strategic imperatives. UCT Libraries was honoured with the 2021 Service Excellence Award.
Motivation for the award can be encapsulated as follows:
“Over the past few years, the UCT Libraries management team has been working towards a future-facing academic library. This strategy has informed research support, positioning the libraries in, and as, student spaces, capacitating the libraries for the digital age in all facets from preservation, digitisation of resources and access to research information, and fostering a culture of the libraries as a learning organisation for their own staff. This approach was severely tested by the COVID-19 emergency, which required the conversion of a critical face-to-face service into a virtual one. The most powerful testament to this achievement comes from UCT students. In the student survey of 2020, three quarters of students said they used the library during remote learning (far more than any other service). It was also the most valued service by the highest number of students.”
Business interruption – the Jagger fire
18 April 2021 will be remembered as the day of dual disasters for UCT Libraries: the loss of the Jagger Reading Room to fire, and the compromising of the Special Collections housed in the Jagger basements by water used to douse the fire. A renowned and well-loved library among UCT alumni, academics and scholars, and the training ground for many professional librarians, the shockwaves of the destruction of the Jagger Library by a freak of nature reverberated across the world. From a former active contact library abuzz with students to a more scholarly reading room since 2012, this disaster has catapulted the Jagger Library into the annals of library history.
UCT Libraries was grateful to be supported by an army of volunteers who responded to the call for support on our website, social media, and radio to work alongside UCT staff in the salvage operation.
From 1 July, staff were relocated to new premises in Mowbray where remedial and advanced conservation continues, and the reconstituting and rebuilding of the archives and African Studies Library has begun.
While 2021 was a year that challenged us at the physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual levels of our existence, it was also a year that demonstrated our determination, perseverance and agility to tackle these crises head on.
Student Wellness Service (SWS) continued to offer health services to all students on campus in 2021 during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the highlights and key figures for the year:
Campus Protection Services (CPS) remains committed to its mandate of combating crime on campus and, most importantly, ensuring the safety of our students, staff and visitors.
The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) campus is open, and several university properties, including student residences, are in neighbouring residential areas. In 2021 there was a slight increase in the overall number of crimes reported to CPS across all campuses, as well as in the surrounding areas of Rondebosch, Mowbray and Observatory. The crimes that stood out were theft-related crimes on campus and armed robberies off campus.
The partnership collaboration between CPS, the Groote Schuur Community Improvement District and the South African Police Service in addressing crime-related issues is ongoing. These partnerships have proven again to be very valuable, resulting in a number of arrests on the fringes of campus because of constant communication and with the backup of technology (such as licence plate recognition and cameras in strategic areas).
The ongoing closed-circuit television (CCTV) renewal project has seen an increase in new cameras being installed across campus. The strategic positioning of these cameras is vital to ensuring coverage of critical areas. The use of CCTV cameras has been particularly successful in identifying suspicious persons and repeat offenders.
In addition to the increase of CCTV cameras across campus, we have been deploying mobile surveillance units in strategic areas which are equipped with CCTV cameras. UCT’s new Risk Operations Centre has since become operational. The operations centre has a dual purpose: firstly, to operate as an alarm and CCTV control centre with a centralised command and control function; secondly, to be utilised as a crisis management hub during any emergencies. From this space we are able to manage and deploy effectively.
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