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Unisa and Joburg launch library partnership

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (VP: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation, and Commercialisation, Unisa) and Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba (Member: Mayoral Committee, Community Development, City of Joburg) sign the partnership paperwork. Cllr Isabel Nomsa Hlomendlini (Ward 52, City of Joburg), who did the opening and welcoming, is in the background.

Unisa and the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality recently launched a library partnership at the Emdeni Public Library in Soweto.

The collaboration between the university and the city is aimed at providing library-related services and support to Unisa registered students through selected public libraries in Soweto and Orange Farm. The participating libraries are in Soweto (Emdeni, Diepkloof, Western Jabavu) and Orange Farm Extension 4.

The partnership means that Unisa students can now access the following services at the partner libraries:

  • Request items from the Unisa library to be couriered to the above libraries for collection.
  • Return requested items to the above libraries to be couriered to Unisa library.
  • Provide information literacy training.
  • Deliver Internet access and usage in relation to databases, electronic reserves, electronic journals and electronic books.
  • Offer study space.

These services were made possible following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that the two parties signed earlier this year (2018). The duration of the MoU is three years and the implementation will be driven by Unisa’s Gauteng Region Libraries as well as the City of Johannesburg’s Library Information Services.

Nurturing the relationship

The launch function was attended by Unisa students and staff, political office bearers and officials from the City of Johannesburg, and partners from public libraries in other municipalities.

All speakers who addressed the audience emphasised the need to nurture this relationship to ensure that it lasts for several years for the benefit of students and communities.

Councillor Nonhlanhla Sifumba, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development, praised Unisa for being affordable and accessible to students.

“Many of our residents, especially in the townships, cannot afford the high costs of full-time study and rely on distance education such as Unisa. I want to thank Unisa and am looking forward to this relationship. This partnership will ensure that those in need of a safe and conducive environment to study must not only find our libraries open to their needs, but well capacitated to enable those studying to complete their assignments and prepare for tests with ease,” she said.

Sifumba emphasised the importance of the partnership between the university and the City of Joburg.

Dr Daisy Selematsela (ED: Unisa Library)

Nomnikelo Khuboni (Final-year BCom Financial Management student, Unisa)

Bringing opportunities closer

“We have introduced extended operating hours in our libraries. Unisa students who come to us will find our libraries open for them. We want a real fundamental change to make a difference in the lives of people. This collaboration will assist students in gaining easy access to Unisa resources and will reduce their travelling costs as they will not need to travel long distances to Unisa libraries. This is yet another way we are bringing opportunities closer to our people, as well as ensuring that proximity means access.”

She called on communities to protect libraries and other public facilities.

“Libraries are there to promote active citizenry. You should guard this library jealously. You should guard this relationship between us and Unisa jealously because it is meant for you. It is for your own benefit.”

Sifumba’s wish is that the partnership be extended to include at least 12 regional libraries or 86 direct libraries.

Earlier, during her opening and welcome remarks, Councillor Isabel Nomsa Hlomendlini of Ward 52 said she welcomed this collaboration because it would create study opportunities for students and communities.

Her wish is also that the two parties extend the partnership to the rest of public libraries located within the City of Joburg.

Nobuntu Mpendulo, Director of Library and Information Services, informed the audience that the City of Johannesburg has 88 public libraries. A new one is likely to open next year.  Several public libraries also have free Wi-Fi. Some also have computer labs on the premises.

“From our side, it is important to also provide students a quiet space to study. We are looking forward to this relationship as it is going to benefit both parties,” she said.

Mpendulo’s wish is to see both Unisa and the City of Johannesburg also working together on activities in correctional service centres where they could provide books, newspapers and other reading materials to inmates, some of whom are Unisa students.

After listening attentively to the presentations from various speakers from the City of Joburg, the Unisa team was ready to provide answers and allay any fear or uncertainty.

Erin Naudé (Deputy Director: Academic Technology Support, Gauteng Region)

Members of the audience were delighted by the opportunity to win prizes, which were sponsored by Van Schaik Books and the Gauteng Region. Behind the lectern is programme director Ntombi Tladinyane (Assistant Director: Region A, Library and Information Services, City of Joburg).

Rolling out partnerships

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Vice-Principal of Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation, and Commercialisation, reminded the audience that universities are not operating in isolation, hence the need to partner with various stakeholders to promote access. She said Unisa has for the past few years been rolling out partnerships of this nature across the country to bring services closer to the people.

Dr Daisy Selematsela, Executive Director of the Unisa Library, said partnerships of this nature enable students to access the library via various platforms. She says the university will roll out training to students and staff of the participating libraries within the City of Joburg to ensure their they are well-versed with library resources.

“We will upload relevant programmes on the computers of the participating libraries; and provide training to ensures both students and staff are empowered,” she said.

On the call for Unisa to partner the City of Johannesburg on activities regarding possible visits to correctional centres, the ED reminded the audience that provision of services at correctional services facilities is a space that Unisa is already operating in.

“We welcome joint ventures such as the one suggested by Ms Mpendulo. We believe we can make a difference in the lives of our people,” she added.

Speaking on behalf of students attending the event, Nomnikelo Khuboni, a final-year B Com Financial Management student, reflected on what it meant to be a Unisa student.

“As an open, distance, and e-learning (ODeL) institution, Unisa empowers you to think independently daily. You become self-reliant as long as you are motivated to work,” she added.

In between proceedings, there were also prizes for the audience to win by answering a question correctly. Questions were based on content of presentations and speeches, as well as on aspects of the partnership. Prizes were sponsored by Van Schaik Books and the Gauteng Region.

Proceedings were wrapped up with the symbolic signing ceremony and exchange of pleasantries by the two parties.

In Gauteng Region, other than the City of Joburg, Unisa also has a similar partnership with Mogale City.

*Submitted by Gilbert Mokwatedi

Publish date: 2018/10/09