SU Open Day

More than 1 760 visitors explored the Stellenbosch University Library on SU Open Day, Saturday 29 February 2020. Future students and their parents had the opportunity to experience the Library first-hand. They were welcomed by library staff and most visitors explored the Library unaccompanied, but some groups and families were, however, keen to be given a brief tour. Many alumni had brought their children to see “their Library”. Visitors were impressed with the Library and the staff.

The more than 217 visitors to the Special Collections Division showed enthusiasm to see and learn from the staff about the material the Division takes care of.

On the Tygerberg campus, visitors and future medical students were welcomed to the Medicine and Health Sciences Library.

African newspapers, 1800 – 1925

The Library has purchased two online resources that will provide valuable information on topics such as the Atlantic slave trade, life in Africa under colonial rule, the emergence of Black journalism, the Zulu Wars and the rejection of Western imperialism. African newspapers, Series 1: 1800 – 1922 and African newspapers, Series 2: 1835 – 1925 chronicle the evolution of Africa through eyewitness reporting, editorials, legislative information, letters, poetry, advertisements, obituaries and other items. Featuring English and foreign-language titles from Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, they offer deep and unique coverage of the issues and events that shaped the continent and its peoples.

African newspapers is available via the Databases A-Z list on the Library website.

For more information, please contact Naomi Visser at or 021 808 4433.

Unique ethnobotanical collection donated to Stellenbosch University

A particularly valuable, rich and unique manuscript collection has recently been donated to the Stellenbosch University (SU) Library and Information Service. The Maguire San Ethnobotanical Collection consists of data collected by Mr Brian Maguire between 1954 and 1972 in close collaboration with Ju|’hoan (previously known as !Kung or !Khu) and ǃXoõ (previously known as !Kõ) communities in the Kalahari.

According to Dr Judy Maguire, her husband, Brian Maguire, became the field assistant to Prof Raymond Dart of “Australopithecus” fame in the 1960s and was researching the potential food plants of early hominids. “During this time he undertook comparative studies of the !Kõ hunter-gatherers in Central Western Botswana, especially as they were a group who had no annual, storable plant food staple to rely on such as the Manketti nuts of the !Kung (!Khu), and no permanent source of water either.

“Many hundreds of photographs were taken at this time, in the context of food gathering, the plant communities of economically important food and medicinal plants, the plants themselves as well as the parts that are eaten. Food preparation was also photographed. It was already apparent at this time that acculturation was taking its toll.

“Prior to this time, Maguire had gained experience as ethnobotanist to the Brock-Harvard-Peabody medical and the Marshall ethnological excursions to the !Kung of SWA during the 1950s, at a time when almost nothing had been recorded concerning the food and medicinal plants of indigenous populations.

“Subsequently, Brian Maguire (1978) completed an MSc (cum laude) entitled The Food Plants of the !Khu Bushmen of North Eastern South West Africa (Namibia). The work was undertaken at a time when little if anything was known about the subsistence ecology of the !Kung, and observations were made at a time when acculturation and impacts on their food-gathering practices were minimal. He died prematurely whilst busy with a Ph.D. on the !Kõ subsistence ecology and finalising the work on the potential vegetable dietary of early hominids in the then Transvaal.”

The collection, consisting of manuscripts, typescripts, sketches, diagrams, photographic prints, black and white negatives, colour slides, field notebooks and plant collection registers, is of great scientific, research, national and heritage importance. It was the wish of the late Mr Maguire and is still the wish of Dr Judy Maguire that the collection becomes a usable resource which can be shared with younger generations. It offers the opportunity to learn from our forefathers about the sustainable use our indigenous plants in an African context.

A significant portion of the physical collection has been digitised and these digital records will be made openly available for research purposes on the Library’s Digital Heritage Repository, SUNDigital Collections. The addition of the collection will ideally complement other digital heritage and natural heritage collections currently on the repository such as the Rudolf Marloth botanical illustrations collection and the James Walton vernacular architecture collection, which includes information and images of various artefacts of Southern African indigenous people.

The physical collection will be hosted in the Manuscript Section of the Special Collections division in the Library in due course. Once again, the collection will enrich current holdings and complement collections such as the Robert Broom, John Muir, BIC van Eeden and Jan Anthonie Engelbrecht collections, all of which relate to indigenous botany, zoology, languages and early customs.

Dr Maguire believes that the knowledge locked in the collection can be used to “assess the attrition of indigenous knowledge systems, and to achieve a better understanding of the context of knowledge transmission – its connection to language loss for example (plant names) and to understand what factors could help to preserve the transmission of knowledge before it disappears with increasing modernisation and acculturation of communities”.

The comprehensive, meticulously documented collection was brought to the attention of the Library by Dr Kerry Jones, Research Associate at SU and Postdoctoral Researcher in Linguistics at Rhodes University. Dr Jones was instrumental in the sorting and digitisation of the collection in collaboration with Dr Maguire and will continue to work on the collection in collaboration with mother tongue speakers in the future.

Liaise with Mimi Seyffert-Wirth, Deputy Director: Digital Scholarship (Library and Information Service) at for more information.

Mimi Seyffert-Wirth

The Library’s agility and services during the COVID-19 lockdown

The Library’s agility during the COVID-19 lockdown has been remarkable, considering that only a limited number of staff have been able to work from home. Working from home has only been possible for staff with the infrastructure to do so, or where the nature of their work has allowed it. A week prior to the lockdown, a decision was already taken to close all library buildings to clients and arrangements were made for 50% of staff to either stay at home, or work from home, as a precautionary measure. Consequently, when lockdown started, it was relatively easy for the Library to shift to an online service environment. Some 90% of the most recent information resources are available in digital format and most of our processes are performed electronically.

The Library and Information Service of SU has functioned as a hybrid library (i.e. both virtual and physical) for more than 20 years. The Library’s involvement in e-learning for a number of years has meant that many of our guides have been online and integrated into SUNLearn, and that a substantial proportion of training has been done online. Our 24-hour reference service, Ask a Librarian, has been functioning for more than ten years, the system to submit theses and dissertations electronically has been operational since 2008, and electronic books and training sessions on YouTube are available. As with all academic libraries, the Library is adaptable, agile and at the forefront of technological change, and therefore was ready and well-positioned to serve the online learning environment that SU has embarked on. Services during lockdown are being promoted and continually updated on the Library websitesocial media and other platforms.

Many of the Library’s training workshops for postgraduate students went online from 30 March. They have been well attended and have received excellent client feedback from as far afield as Japan. The workshops have included Overview of software for effective data analysis and data visualisation, Tips on how to format your thesis (MS Word)Copyright issues in theses and dissertation writing and Introduction to data visualisation with Tableau Public and RAWGraphs.

The Library’s online offering will be further enhanced through a new project to merge its physical heritage collections with the digital space by embedding the description of its data collections into the linked-data web for better discoverability and access. In doing so the Library is investigating current and potential approaches to build, or design access to, digital cultural heritage collections with the aim of supporting their computational use, augmentation and reuse for the purpose of scientific research.