UFH Libraries go digital

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In a bid to embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and be part of the digital world, the University of Fort Hare Libraries are gradually making moves to incorporate technological advancements. 

In an interview with This Week @Fort Hare, Dr Connie Bitso, Director of UFH Libraries, said the Alice Library is regarded as the “Heart” of the university. This is because it is the first point of reference for information for many academics and students, and provides much needed support to researchers.

Dr Bitso shared some of the plans and her vision for the university’s libraries including a R20 million Digital Laboratory. In the main, UFH Libraries are trying to achieve three niche areas,viz:

Research Commons - to create research space

Digital Commons - to provide digital support and innovation where users can design software apps and connect with other students and lecturers, and; 

Knowledge Commons.

Dr Bitso also confirmed that the digital lab aspiration is about to become a reality as space has already been identified at the Bhisho Campus.

“What we need now is a commitment of R20 million from the UFH executive team MANCO. We have to develop a proposal that MANCO can market for us and I think this will sell quickly and easily.  We need to move with the times”, she said confidently.

There are also plans to digitize some of the library’s special collections. “These collections are rare and cannot be accessed anywhere. However, we do not allow people to page through them because they are old and frail. But once they are digitised, we will be able to preserve the content and share it with a wider audience, anywhere and anytime.” 

Dr Bitso believes that in order to successfully embrace 4IR, the library has to be recognised as an academic partner of the university in research and E-Learning. “Without the university recognizing us as academic partners, it will become a little bit difficult when we have to convince them on certain things in the latest trends.”

Libraries are no longer about books only. They are about engagement, social learning and collaborative research. Libraries are about creating a vibrant learning space.

“In ten years’ time we will be fully digitalized with less books,” promised Dr Bitso.

We believe her.