In celebration of International Open Access Week

October 2020 was the 10th anniversary of International Open Access Week. Celebrations took place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which made access to physical libraries difficult for many users. International Open Access Week is an annual global event that seeks to broaden awareness and understanding of the importance of open access to scholarly research. It seeks to ensure that scholarly research and accompanying data is published on platforms that make it freely accessible to the user. The theme for this year’s Open Access Week was “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. It is a theme that focused on the urgent need for action regarding information equity, representivity and inclusion.

The Library and Information Service (LIS) of Stellenbosch University (SU) did not let the COVID-19 crisis dampen its spirits. A number of activities were undertaken in celebration of this week.

Promotional material and plasma slides were prepared and presented throughout the week by Digital Scholarship staff. The exhibition and slides aimed to raise awareness and understanding about the Library’s open access (OA) activities.

A social media OA awareness campaign was run. The Library’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were used to share information about OA and its importance to library users especially while the COVID-19 crisis prevails.

A video, Open access initiatives at Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service was created and flighted on the Library website and social media. The video highlights the SUNScholar institutional repository and the Library’s open digital heritage repository, SUNDigital Collections, which showcases the Library’s special collections. SUNScholarData too, is featured.

Additionally, Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director of the LIS, was invited to speak at the OA event of the University of the Western Cape Library Services. In her presentation, Ms Tise highlighted the OA initiatives of the LIS of SU and their impact. The initiatives include electronic theses and dissertations, digitisation of scholarly articles, digitisation of special collections content, and the digitisation of research data.

Siviwe Bangani

Editing: Bronwyn Bruton

Client survey reveals needs and challenges

The Library and Information Service conducted a client survey in August to hear the needs and challenges of staff and students in using the Library’s online services and resources. With a greater understanding of users’ needs and challenges, the Library is now working to make improvements.

The 1 149 survey responses which were received were representative of all client types and faculties. Illustrated below is a breakdown of respondents by client type, expressed as a percentage of the total.

Client type of respondents, as a percentage


The bar graph below depicts the faculties represented by survey participants, expressed as a percentage of the total.

Survey respondents by faculty, as a percentage


Feedback, received in the form of four open-ended questions, has provided valuable information about aspects of online services with which staff and students struggle and which they wish to see improved.

Clients’ needs are centered on finding information for their studies or research in the form of journal articles and books, and in using the online databases, e-journals and SUNSearch. They also have need to access the physical library, including printing facilities and study areas. The Interlibrary loans service and the library guides set up by librarians are also very frequently used. Aspects such as a user-friendly website, library-related training and help with referencing were also fairly important needs indicated by staff and students.

The challenges that library users experience mostly relate to accessing information in databases, users’ own search abilities, navigating the Library’s website, limited electronic material and complex search functions. A large number of participants (170) indicated that they do not experience any challenges in using the Library’s online services and resources.

Suggestions received regarding training related mostly to the ease of obtaining information for studies or research. The optimal use of databases, how to do a literature search, search strategies, basic orientation, the need for online training videos and how to reference resources were all points highlighted. As the Library already offers training in several of these topics, the need for awareness of services and training has become evident.

General suggestions included the need for an improved electronic book collection, a user-friendly website, a better search engine and more online resources in general. More defined search options will also assist in finding information effectively.

Based on the survey results, the Library will work to improve the following: the usability of the website and search functions, expansion of the current generic training which will also focus on new students and undergraduates, provision of more e-learning tools and using a variety of ways to market the library’s services and training. The results and recommendations have also assisted the Library in setting up strategic themes for the period 2021-2025.

The Library is truly thankful to all who participated in the survey. We look forward to offering you improved services.

Marié Roux

Editing: Bronwyn Bruton

Update on Course Reading Lists & Update on Library services

Update on Course Reading Lists

The Library and Information Service in collaboration with the Centre for Learning Technologies and other learning and teaching support divisions, has implemented a SUNLearn integrated course reading system to allow for the better administration of reading lists in an e-learning environment. Course Reading Lists, powered by Leganto® from Ex Libris, allows lecturers to build and manage the reading lists for their courses directly from within SUNLearn. Lecturers from the Departments of Educational Psychology, Music, Geography and Environmental Studies, the School of Accountancy, the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics and the Faculty of Theology, participated in the implementation of the system which went live on 1 December 2020.

Leganto® allows lecturers to include diverse content from the Library and elsewhere, such as books, articles, open educational resources, websites, streaming media, digitised content and course notes, in a single list. In doing so, Course Reading Lists adds both print and electronic materials to the same lists and shows the real-time availability of both. Student usage reports are also available to help lecturers determine how effective their reading lists are and what materials students engage with most, through views, comments and likes.

Students access Course Reading Lists from within their course in SUNLearn. They can interact with their lists by marking citations as read and liking those citations which they enjoy. If enabled by the lecturer, students can view upcoming due dates by when material needs to be read and can partake in student discussions on their lists. This new integrated course reading system comes at a time when students need to engage more with their lecturers through the SUNLearn system.

To learn more about Course Reading Lists and to get started on your own, please visit

Lecturers and facilitators of courses who wish to make use of this new feature to improve their course reading list administration in 2021, can contact Natasja Malherbe (Manager: Digital Library Systems), tel. +27 21 808-2845 or their faculty librarian.

Wouter Klapwijk

Update on Library services

The libraries that are currently open for services, including research and study, are: SU LibraryEngineering and Forestry LibraryMedicine and Health Sciences LibraryMusic Library and USBL (Bellville Park Campus Library).

Read here the details about opening hours, booking a visit as well as services and resources that are offered.

SU Library service

The Stellenbosch University (SU) Library building is available for a limited number of clients at a time to use computers and spaces for study and research. Clients are also welcome to bring their own devices.

Clients may use the library’s online booking system to book to browse for books in the SU Library. Clients who are interested in utilising this option must place a booking 24 hours in advance of the desired time. The relevant Faculty Librarian will then contact the client to explain the relevant procedures. Please note that Monday bookings must be verified on the previous Friday.

To ensure adherence to Covid-19 protocols, the total number of clients allowed in the library is monitored. Clients are therefore required to book time slots via the library’s online booking system. Further details can be found here.

Open Data, SUNScholarData & International Open Access Week

International Open Access Week is an annual scholarly communication event which focuses on Open Access and related topics and takes place every year in the last week of October. The theme for this year’s Open Access week was “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. In light of this theme, the Library and Information Service decided to put the spotlight on Open Data as an aspect of Open Science and inform the research community of the importance of Open Data as well as to showcase the growth of SUNScholarData, the institutional Research Data repository managed by the Library.

Open Data is a sub-component that exists within the broader context of Open Research. It owes its existence largely to the increasingly prominent role which research data have come to play in the world of scholarly research. The impetus behind making research data openly accessible has been a desire to democratise the data so that any person can access such data, free of constraints such as paywalls. However, the need itself goes beyond this and is linked to certain positive benefits for the rest of society. Examples of this include but are not limited to the following: Improvements in the quality of research data; compliance with certain ethical and legal requirements; a reduction in the duplication of data collection efforts; an increase in the diffusion of information and ultimately knowledge throughout society and the broader dissemination of research data.

In recognising the important role that research data repositories can play in facilitating the dissemination of open scientific data, Stellenbosch University (SU) set up and launched its very own institutional research data repository, SUNScholarData, on 12 August 2019.

The first dataset was deposited in SUNScholarData on 7 August 2019. Since then, the number of deposits has increased at a modest rate and now totals 84 datasets. Some 21 of these have been published and are openly accessible. The datasets have been viewed 9 564 times and generated 1 559 downloads since August 2019.

In addition to permitting the deposit of research data, SUNScholarData facilitates the bulk-linkage to supplementary data originally submitted to academic publishers. Currently this is only possible with supplementary data associated with the Public Library of Science’s (PLOS) journals. On 16 September 2020, a total of 3 508 PLOS datasets were linked to SUNScholarData. These datasets cover a period from 2006-2020 and provide a broad view of openly accessible research data that span several academic disciplines.

SUNScholarData provides several benefits which can be harnessed by SU researchers. The greatest benefit experienced by those who have published research data on SUNScholarData is the increased visibility of their data. As SUNScholarData is visible and accessible online it is certainly better than storing research data on local as well as external hard drives. Furthermore, the repository stores research data securely in accordance with recognised ISO standards. The research datasets are curated prior to publication, thus ensuring quality and by extension trustworthiness. SUNScholarData facilitates compliance with research funder mandates, which may require that the research data associated with funded research be shared publicly upon the completion of projects. SUNScholardata also facilitates compliance with the policies of academic publishers, which sometimes mandate that the research data underpinning publication be published via research data repositories.

Researchers interested in learning more about SUNScholarData are welcome to contact the Manager: Research Data Services of the Library at

Samuel Simango

How we have offered services differently during lockdown

Lockdown has been no meltdown for the faculty librarian team of the Library and Information Service. During Covid-19, faculty librarians have overcome various challenges to assist clients with their information needs including moving from face-to-face to online training, providing off-campus information assistance and overseeing access to library buildings.

Group training meltdown averted

Traditionally, SU faculty librarians present information literacy classes in a face-to-face classroom environment. These sessions are presented to clients on campus. Literally hundreds of these sessions are presented each year. As a result of the success of these training sessions, librarians are very comfortable in the classroom environment.

When Covid-19 lockdown kicked in, the situation drastically changed and suddenly librarians were forced out of their comfort zones. Ice-cream floats started to melt. Not for long though… Training for the 2020 academic year was an ongoing concern, because SU management was adamant that the 2020 academic year would be completed successfully. Librarians therefore had to step up, adapt and create new comfort zones using online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams.

Faculty librarians quickly learned the Teams tools of the trade and learnt a valuable lesson along the lockdown route: find a library buddy to assist you with technical challenges such as log-in problems, connecting latecomers and answering chat questions during Teams training sessions. Ice-cream floats to all trainers during lockdown.

Client assistance meltdown averted

Information assistance to off-campus clients is not new, but previously faculty librarians delivered this service from the comfort of their office chairs. Now librarians were also working from off-campus and experienced the same frustrations that our off-campus clients periodically experience with accessing information. Mark that down to another lockdown reality check.

Fortunately, faculty librarians’ service commitment went into overdrive: support your clients by whatever means necessary (within the law, of course). Call it over-servicing or assisting, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Faculty librarians had to ensure the clients’ 2020 academic year stayed afloat. Practical example: With support from Technical Services, clients received access to new e-books at the speed of lightning. Ice-cream floats to the Technical Services colleagues.

Library access meltdown averted

Fact: Clients missed the library building. Faculty librarians received numerous requests during lockdown as to when the building would re-open. When it finally did, with all the necessary safety protocols in place, clients were tremendously relieved, even though they were still not allowed ice-cream floats in the building. The circulation staff were crucial to welcome our clients back and ensure everyone’s safety in the libraries. The circulation staff all deserve ice-cream floats for their professional, patient, and friendly (but firm) welcoming of returning clients to the libraries.

It just goes to show what great teamwork can accomplish.

Pieter du Plessis

Photo: Google Images