At the launch of the new Library, on 4 November 2010, the Vice-Chancellor opened his speech by saying that a “vibrant and well-equipped library is an indispensable corollary for the pursuit of the core purposes of a university.” He continued on to say that the vision of those who fought for the Library to be built, and who have put so much time and effort into its realisation was this:
Rhodes Library opening, 4 November 2010
Photo: Sophie Smith
…to provide a high quality education and experience to students from diverse backgrounds; to push forward the frontiers of knowledge and understanding; and to continue to possess the best undergraduate pass rates, among the most outstanding postgraduate graduation rates, and among the highest per capita research outputs of any South African university.
A library is no longer only a place where books and printed material is stored. Today's Generation Y'ers are linked in to the world wide web in a way most of the rest of us find bewildering. But these young people, and those of us who take the time to explore, have access to a startling amount of information through on-line academic information resources.
Supported by expert librarians, Rhodes University students, academics and researchers have at their fingertips both extensive print holdings and the latest digital research databases for both an engagement with current knowledge and for the creation of new knowledge. The new Library Building provides a range of facilities and services that benchmark it against the finest in South Africa and internationally.
In mid-2009 the Rhodes University Library was invited to participate in a three-year project, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, together with five other leading academic libraries in South Africa. The Carnegie Research Commons for senior postgraduates and academic staff is already fully utilised. There is also an Information Commons, for the use of undergraduates, and nine group study rooms, for interactive peer learning. Two Quiet Reading Rooms with 56 seats each, and a 24/7 study room with 88 seats, are additional features.
The vision for this Library, however, is not merely that of enriching those students and academics who wish to make use of its facilities. As did its predecessor, the new Library operates an open-library policy, and visitors can join for a small fee, which covers their annual access card. Occasional visitors can sign in simply to browse, or to read a newspaper in the News Lounge.
In September 2010 Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) was launched as a core function of the University. As part of this responsibility, the Library plans to make its facilities available to formal community projects in a way that will encourage collaboration between academics and local project leaders. The Library is also linked to the Vice-Chancellor's Makana Schools Partnership Project, thus providing the Makana region with a valuable resource for those who are living in disadvantaged circumstances.
The vision which the University has for its new Library can best be summed up by a statement of Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat:
“Our collective endeavours and investment in the Library goes well beyond bricks and mortar. More importantly, it embraces the tasks of cultivating new generations of graduates, professionals and critical citizens, and of producing knowledge, which is the lifeblood of human development in the 21st century.”
Feature writer: Jean Mckeown
Additional: Cathy Gush
Photographer: Sophie Smith