Para-legal training

On 13 March 2019, the Library and Information Service hosted visiting students from the Institute of Legal Practice Development and Research for training in the use of legal resources. Above, Ms Sibongiseni Mrwashu, Junior Law Librarian (on the right), is seen informing the group about important printed resources.

Library Research Week Sabinet Prize

It pays off to attend Library Research Week. Mr David Okimait did just that! Not only has he had the opportunity to augment his research skills from expert presenters, but David is also the lucky draw winner of a Lenovo TAB7 Essential Tablet. The prize is sponsored by Sabinet. David is the lucky winner out of all attendees of Library Research Week.

On being informed, David expressed that he was excited and thankful to be the winner of this super prize. He also wrote:

The Library Research Week was both a humbling and learning experience for me as I have not seen libraries in other academic institutions go to such lengths to help their library users and researchers optimally utilise the different library resources. It’s my strong belief that my continued interaction and utilisation of the library and several opportunities it offers will immensely shape my research skills.

I once again thank you for the opportunity and I am humbled by the gesture of library partners like Sabinet. …

David is a doctoral student in Sociology. He is pictured above receiving his prize on Friday 31 May from Ilse de Lange (Director: Technical Services & Electronic Resources Management) and Pepler Head (Subject Librarian, and member of the Research Week Committee), at the Stellenbosch University Library.

Congratulations, David, and thank you for taking part in Library Research Week!

The changing landscape of open access globally

During Library Research Week, Glenn Truran, Director of SANLiC (the South African National Library Consortium), shed light on the current situation regarding open access publishing globally.

Glenn reminded the audience that we are still using a centuries-old model for communicating research which, once published, is hidden behind a paywall of annual subscription fees.

About 20 years ago, publishers started to move individual journals into journal packages (the so-called “big deals”) in order to provide libraries access to more electronic journals. This, however, is a double-edged sword. The benefit is that by paying a little bit more libraries suddenly have access to far more electronic resources than they would otherwise have been able to afford. The drawback is that big deals gradually can take up an increasingly larger portion of a library’s collection budget, leaving less funds for other resources.

However, while libraries are struggling, publishers continue to prosper. Glenn illustrated how Elsevier, the biggest publisher in the world, averaged an annual profit of 36,7% over the past 9 years.

In response to this situation, the Open Access movement started some years ago, with the aim of making research available online, free of the requirement to subscribe to a resource to obtain access. Open access did not grow as quickly as everyone had hoped, but in recent years a number of new initiatives have emerged around the globe, all with the intention of forcing publishers to change the way in which research publication is funded. For example, in July 2017 German universities cancelled their subscriptions to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect, and in the subsequent two years Sweden and the University of California did the same.

In September 2018, cOAlition S announced Plan S which requires that, from 2020 onwards, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants provided by participating national and European research councils and funding bodies must be published in journals or on platforms compliant with open access. In February 2019 cOAlition S welcomed its first African member (the National Science Council of Zambia) and the African Academy of Sciences expressed support for Plan S.

In December 2018, representatives of 37 countries signed the 14th Berlin Declaration, committing to

  • authors retaining their copyright,
  • complete and immediate open access, and
  • accelerating the progress of open access through transformative agreements that are temporary and transitional, with a shift to full open access within a few years.

According to this statement these agreements should, at least initially, be cost-neutral, with the expectation that economic adjustments will follow as the markets transform. Publishers are expected to work with all members of the global research community to effect complete and immediate open access upon publication.

South Africa was represented by USAf, ASSAf, the NRF, DST, DHET and SANLiC. Afterwards USAf produced a briefing document, which includes a draft roadmap to guide South Africa’s negotiations towards open access to scholarly journals. The document ends with:

The success of the OA2020 campaigns in other national systems is driven by the level of consensus that exists in those scholarly communities. This requires engagement and discussion. There is need for urgency since the negotiations for the next set of contracts have already begun.

In his response to Glenn’s talk, Prof Michael Cherry of the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University agreed with Glenn about the value of and the need for open access publishing, but also lamented the fact that it was expensive and therefore difficult for researchers to afford.

At the Research Week presentation were (left to right): Mr Glenn Truran (presenter), Ms Ellen Tise (Senior Director: Library and Information Service) and Ms Naomi Visser (Librarian: E-resources).

Naomi Visser


Launch of Library Research Week 2019


The 7th annual Library Research Week was launched with Prof Johan Fourie, Associate Professor at LEAP (the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa’s Past) as the guest speaker. With his topic From documents to data: how digital tools can transform history research, Prof Fourie indeed showed his audience how new digital tools may turn old unremarkable documents into wonderfully rich historical sources that can reveal new narratives of the past.

According to Prof Fourie, 90% of the data in the world was generated over the last two years and paper often remains the best way to preserve information. We probably have better records of communication between people of the 1700’s than of the 1990’s.

Prof Fourie and his team use historical records that may seem unimportant e.g. inventories (lists of assets when people die), death notices, marriage registers, baptism records, petitions, auctions, slave mortgage rolls, and prisoners’ rolls. They are also using the Household Surveys available in our Library’s Africana section.

By transcribing and analysing the data some interesting trends and information emerge that can assist in understanding and explaining the long-term economic development of Africa’s diverse societies. This information can give an indication of what happened at a specific time in history, although the why cannot always be explained and needs further investigation and research. For example, baptism and marriage records can reveal the number of bridal pregnancies. By using these methods it is possible to dispel deep-rooted misbeliefs and myths about our collective past.

These historical records are handwritten and difficult to read and require manual transcription. In future though, new machine learning technologies will be used to transcribe handwritten records. Records that are available in PDF or XML are easier to read and to analyse and will open new research opportunities.

Pictured above at the Launch of Library Research Week are (left to right): Prof Johan Fourie (guest speaker), Ms Ellen Tise (Senior Director: Library and Information Service) and Prof Nico Koopman (Vice-Rector: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel).

Libraries and archives play a vital role in preserving these historical documents (of seemingly unimportant nature). They are repositories of information and potential knowledge that can help to uncover the untold stories and histories of the past and give a voice to those often excluded in the past.

Hanlie Strydom

Photographs: Bronwyn Bruton

Visitors from the University of Namibia Libraries

The Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University, hosted three visitors from the University of Namibia (UNAM) Libraries on 24 and 25 July 2019.  The purpose of the visit was for UNAM Libraries to benchmark their key and emerging functions against the Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University. Pictured below (left to right) are the three visitors from UNAM Libraries: Ms Anna Leonard, Librarian: Research Support Services, Mr Bravismore Mumanyi, HOD: ICT and Systems, and Mr Joseph Ndinoshiho, University Librarian. With the visitors, from the Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University, are: Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director, Ms Ilse de Lange, Director: Technical Services and Electronic Resources Management, and Ms Mimi Seyffert-Wirth, Deputy Director: Digital Scholarship.

USA institutional visits: RDM learning

From 18-26 May 2019, a team of four staff members from the Library and Information Service visited four institutions in the United States of America (USA). The purpose of the visits was to engage with libraries which have an established and substantial research data management (RDM) offering. Engagement with librarians in the USA who are working with researchers in terms of RDM services, training users, managing data repositories and are involved with various other RDM related activities, should provide essential insights and allow the Library to learn from their best practices.

The staff who participated in the visits were: Ellen Tise (Senior Director: Library and Information Service), Mimi Seyffert-Wirth (Deputy Director: Digital Scholarship), Samuel Simango (Manager: Research Data Services) and Marié Theron (Faculty Librarian: Science & AgriSciences). The four institutions visited were: The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University and University of California (Berkeley and California Digital Library).


Pictured above are the four staff members of the Library and Information Service, SU, together with other international librarians at the Mortenson Center, The University of Illinois Library, during their USA trip.


The ultimate objective of the visits was to achieve proposed outcomes of the Library’s RDM strategic actions, which include the following:

    • Librarians who are familiar with data management planning, data collection, processing and analysis, as well as data sharing, dissemination, curation and re-use;
    • Preservation of and access to institutional research data;
    • Insight into the role of researchers and the decisions they have to make regarding RDM.

Some of the many insights gained from the visits include:

    • Libraries played a leading role in the establishment of research data services (RDS) on campus.
    • RDS is integrated within the entire university community.
    • RDS is a collaborative project between librarians, RDS partners and the academic community.
    • Consultation and engagement with clients is crucial.
    • Different types of data exist: raw data (size/sensitivity varies), processed data and analyzed data (repository); infrastructure and types of data can be matched.
    • The Library should proceed with the implementation of RDS, based on a long-term (multi-year) roadmap (objectives, outcomes, actions, deliverables and target dates/phases).

After the informative visits, key library staff members were invited to an RDM session on 19 June to develop a roadmap for RDM at the Library and Information Service, Stellenbosch University.

Renowned SU art and book restorer dies

Henri Wirth, well-known art and book restorer, passed away on 1 June 2019. Henri became a legend in his lifetime. Through his excellent work some of South Africa’s most important cultural heritage has been preserved for generations to come. He has rescued works by artists such as Pierneef, Thomas Baines, Hugo Naudé and Maggie Laubser from total ruin and destruction. These works now form part of SU’s art collection.

Henri was born in Fulda, East Germany in 1941 and received training in the art of bookbinding and restoration in West Germany. In 1964 he emigrated to South Africa to take up a position as book restorer at the Carnegie Library of the SU. He retired in 2009.

Henri was generally acknowledged for being a craftsman of the highest order and enjoyed worldwide acclaim. At the time of his appointment the intention was that he would mainly concentrate on fine book binding. After his appointment, however, he also applied himself to the restoration of a variety of other library material such as maps, documents, manuscripts, graphic works and paintings. It included valuable antiquarian maps, of which the oldest dates back to 1672.

Some of his most important work included the restoration of all Maggie Laubser’s paintings, which were bequeathed to SU upon her death. Some of the paintings were discovered in her garage in Strand and were so damaged that they could hardly be handled. Other important work was the restoration of the 168 aquarelles in the Solomon Ceasar Malan collection.

Other work of Henri’s included further developing the technique of “conservation framing” for the conservation of works of art and original maps, and designing the Pro Bene Merito medal, which is awarded for exceptional service to SU. Two television programmes were made, and numerous newspaper and journal articles were published about his work.

In 1996 he received the medal of honour from the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns for his outstanding work. The award was considered a fitting tribute to someone who had made an immeasurable contribution to the conservation of irreplaceable South African cultural heritage in the preceding decades.

Twice, Henri was the recipient of a bursary of the Kaapse Drie Eeue Stigting, which enabled him to undergo further training, in the restoration of books and documents, in Europe.

“There is one way only, and that is the correct way”, were Henri’s words, and that attitude ran like a golden thread through his 45 uninterrupted years of service at the University. As a result of this, the University Library and the SU campus became a much more beautiful place. His legacy will live on for a long time.

IDASA manuscript collection handover

On 20 June 2019, the manuscript collection of the Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa (IDASA) was handed over to Stellenbosch University (SU) by Her Excellency Mrs Helene Budliger Artieda, Ambassador of Switzerland to South Africa. The IDASA collection was acquired by SU with the financial support of the Swiss Confederation. The ceremony took place in the Special Collections division of the SU Library.

At the ceremony were (left to right): Ms Ellen Tise (Senior Director: Library and Information Service), Prof Wim de Villiers (Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Stellenbosch University), Her Excellency Mrs Helene Budliger Artieda, Dr Roelf Meyer, and Mr Paul Graham.

“This has been an amazing journey. Switzerland is proud to be associated with this archive and these manuscripts. We have been working on this since late 2015. I’m happy that there will be a lasting memory at Stellenbosch University and that this collection is where it needs to be,” said Artieda during the handover.

The IDASA collection comprises correspondence, interviews, photographs, speeches, pamphlets and reports depicting South Africa’s political history during the 1980s and early 1990s, which Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, believes will be of great benefit to researchers and students.

“Stellenbosch University is committed to ‘research for impact’ – that is a core theme in our strategic framework. It is our vision to become Africa’s leading research-intensive university, globally recognised as excellent, inclusive and innovative, where we advance knowledge in service of society and this manuscript collection will help us do exactly that”, said Prof de Villiers.

Drs Frederik van Zyl Slabbert and Alex Boraine formed the Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa (IDASA), later known as the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, in 1986. IDASA’s initial focus from 1987 was on creating an environment for white South Africans to talk to the banned liberation movement in exile, the African National Congress (ANC), prior to its unbanning in 1990 by then President FW de Klerk. After the first democratic election in 1994, IDASA’s focus changed to lead towards the establishment of democratic institutions in the country, political transparency and good governance. The Institute was dissolved in 2013.

Slabbert, who passed away in 2010, was an alumnus of SU and the institution’s 13th Chancellor. The IDASA collection complements other similar collections in the Library, including the Frederik van Zyl Slabbert collection, which was donated to SU in 2014 and opened in 2015.

“We owe Drs Slabbert and Boraine and IDASA a debt of gratitude for helping to shape the environment within which Stellenbosch University could grow more inclusive to the point where we are today, an integrated academic community that celebrates critical thinking, promotes debate and is committed to democracy, human rights and social justice, with an outward, international focus on the future”, said Prof de Villiers.

Also in attendance at the handover ceremony was Mr Paul Graham, former executive director of IDASA, who gave an overview of the history and significant role the organisation played in shaping South Africa’s democracy. He stated that IDASA was always committed to building capacity for democracy amongst citizens and their governments and is a model that is still worth following today.

“I remain convinced that these tasks are necessary in South Africa as elsewhere and am glad that the Stellenbosch University Library will continue to contribute to that task through the materials made accessible to scholars, and we hope practitioners”, said Graham.

Some of the items in the IDASA collection have been digitised and are available on the Library’s Digital Heritage Repository, SUNDigital Collections – More digitised items will be added in the future.

Adapted from a news article by Rozanne Engel, Corporate Communication, IDASA collection handed over to Stellenbosch University, 20 June 2019.

Photographs by Hennie Rudman and Bronwyn Bruton