Report by Siviwe Bangani, Manager Information Services (Mahikeng)
On 23 to 27 June 2019, I attended the IATUL conference co-hosted by the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Curtin University in Perth, Australia. The theme of the conference was “shifting sands and rising tides – leading libraries through Innovation”. The sub-themes included library spaces, information and digital literacy, FAIR principles, next generation information discovery, and library value and analytics. The 4th Industrial Revolution and its ramifications for the academic libraries was well captured in many papers in this conference.
Prof. Dawn Freshwater of UWA opened the conference and reminded the delegates of the important role that librarians play in the research eco-system as spiritual and intellectual custodians of knowledge and knowledge spaces. Professor Seongcheol Kim of Korea University talked about how, as the director of the library in Korea University, they managed to transform the library through social innovation. The Professor advised that due to the large number of students with mobile phones, mobile should be the first consideration in all academic libraries. Libraries should build spaces that create social value for the library. Among other innovations at the Korea Library is an open library. Books are placed on shelves in strategic spaces around campus and students can take the books and use them any time with no control by the library or librarians. Famous authors are also invited to talk about books to students. There are also poster sessions held inside the library.
Gerald Beasley of Cornell University Library pointed out that some users come to the library to use it as a resource while some come to take refuge from the world of misinformation. Not every university needs a great library but every university needs an innovative library. As such academic libraries should support risk and experimentation by staff. They should always be responsive to the needs of the communities they serve.
On Tuesday, 25 June 2019, I presented a paper co-authored with Dr Mathew Moyo and Dina Mashiyane on the utilisation of library spaces by postgraduate students at NWU in a session chaired by Ms Lucille Webster (Secretary of IATUL and Director at the Durban University of Technology Libraries). The engagements with attendees after the presentation helped us to identify weaknesses of the paper and strengthen it further. This paper has since been sent to an international journal for consideration for publication.
Another interesting contribution was Ms Margie Jantti, director of libraries at the University of Wollongong in Australia. Ms Jantti presented a Council of Australian University Librarians’ report about the role of academic libraries in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What was more interesting about this presentation is that the Australians have managed to identify the role of academic libraries on all SDGs. IATUL conferences are also famous for their study tours.
On Wednesday, 26 June 2019, we went to a study tour around Perth. I selected a study tour that involved Australian wildlife, indigenous art and bush braai. For the first time in my life I tasted kangaroo meat. We were also able to take some pictures with Australian wildlife.
ROI for NWU and LIASA from this conference
I approached Ms Jantti to find out if she would be willing to present a webinar for the LIASA Higher Education Interest Group members on the role of SDGs in academic libraries to which she agreed. This successful webinar happened on 31 July 2019 and it was attended by over 30 individuals. The paper presented at this conference is currently under review by an international journal. I have already sounded colleagues about the possibility of us having poster sessions in the library.