College of Human Sciences

From planting to pages: A fascinating journey to academic excellence

Dr Mogau Maja, currently the Acting Deputy Director of Information Resource Distribution at Unisa, has had an inspiring path in Library and Information Science. Raised in a rural farming community, Maja initially aimed for a career in agriculture. However, life took an unexpected turn, guiding him towards the field of librarianship.


Dr Mogau Maja

Maja’s passion for librarianship was ignited during his third year at the University of Limpopo when he worked as a student assistant in the university library’s acquisition section. This pivotal experience solidified his commitment, leading him to graduate with a Bachelor of Information Studies and become a qualified librarian.

The road following his graduation was not easy. Maja faced a challenging two-year period of unemployment. To sustain himself, he ventured into small businesses, including running a poultry farm and selling wood. His perseverance bore fruit in 2000 when he began his professional career as a regional librarian for the Free State Department of Sports, Arts and Culture. In this role, he managed book selection, training and inventory control for public libraries.

In 2008, Maja advanced his education by pursuing a Postgraduate Diploma in Information Management at the University of Johannesburg. His growing interest in research methodology propelled him to undertake a Master’s degree in Information Science at Unisa, focusing on undergraduate students’ use of electronic resources. This academic pursuit culminated in his PhD.

Maja’s doctoral research, "Trends in postgraduate students’ use of research commons facilities in selected academic libraries in South Africa", tackled the challenges postgraduate students face in using these facilities. He discovered that many university libraries failed to meet the evolving needs of postgraduate students, especially with the rapid advancements in information technologies. His research aimed to bridge this gap, enhancing the accessibility and usability of research commons facilities.

His motivation stemmed from observing a disconnect between available resources and students’ specific needs during visits to various university libraries. This realisation fuelled his passion for transforming research commons facilities to better support postgraduate students through research in the era of information technology.

Completing his PhD was no small feat. It required four years of unwavering dedication, during which Maja faced numerous obstacles, including the Covid-19 pandemic, financial constraints, network access issues, time management struggles and bouts of self-doubt. Despite these challenges, his resilience and commitment carried him through.

Balancing work and personal life was crucial for Maja. He often had to compromise daily routines, including family time, to concentrate on his research. Through careful planning, prioritisation and an open mind, he managed these challenges effectively.

Throughout his PhD journey, Dr Maja collaborated with other researchers and institutions, sharing ideas and frustrations, which helped him navigate the complexities of his research. This collaboration underscored his ability to network and work collaboratively.

Looking ahead, Maja plans to continue his work in the industry and societal growth and engagements while exploring other potential avenues within his field. His unwavering commitment to enhancing library services and his passion for research will drive his future endeavours, whether in academia or the broader industry.

Maja’s story is a testament to resilience, adaptability and dedication. His journey from a farming background to becoming a distinguished library and information science professional serves as an inspiration to aspiring scholars and professionals.

The Executive Director of Unisa Library Information Services, Prof Mpho Ngoepe, extended heartfelt congratulations to Maja for this remarkable accomplishment. "Congratulations to Mokone wa gaMaja on achieving the highest qualification in information science," Ngoepe remarked. "Your expertise will be invaluable in discerning the most relevant information in our field."

* By Itumeleng Mpete, Unisa Library Information Services

Publish date: 2024/05/27

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