South African librarian shares his experiences

Published 04-10-2012

Thurs., April 19, 2-3 pm/Jones Room: Join us for an InfoForum with South African science librarian Pieter du Plessis from the University of Stellenbosch, whom the Emory Libraries has been hosting since early March. At this InfoForum, du Plessis will share his experiences in the U.S., both educational and social, with the audience. He will present an overview on academic education and libraries in South Africa, particularly at Stellenbosch, 40 minutes outside Cape Town. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about South Africa and its people.

Du Plessis’ visit – his first trip to America – is part of an intensive program for research librarians, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to develop a new model for library research support at South African universities. The program started in 2010 for a group of 15 South African librarians with a two-week training camp in Stellenbosch that included researchers talking about how they use, or don’t use, the library for their work.

The group then flew to Chicago Feb. 20 for an intensive two-week program at the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana, which included a side trip to the OCLC and the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He was able to experience the Midwestern weather of rain, snow and near-constant cloud cover, and he even had to hike several blocks in the snow in Chicago. He arrived at the Emory Libraries March 12.

“I feel very much at home here in Atlanta because of the surroundings. It’s very much like where I come from,” du Plessis said. “It’s hot here, and you can see the sky, which you can’t see in Illinois or Ohio – it was cloudy and rainy. If I don’t ever see snow again, it’ll be too soon.”

Upon arriving at the Woodruff Library, he began working with subject librarians Donna Hudson and Liz McBride, meeting with other librarians as well as members of the Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) team, which matches researchers and their projects with librarians and technologists to turn data into interactive digital projects.

Du Plessis says he’s most interested in seeing how American research university librarians work as liaisons with faculty and assist with their research.

“The status of librarians here is a lot higher than it is in South Africa,” he said. “It seems that your academics value your input and knowledge a lot more than they do in South Africa. We’re seen as administrative support staff. That’s another reason we’re here – how can we become more of an associate to researchers rather than administrative support staff?”

Du Plessis will reveal what he’s learned at the April 19 InfoForum.

Posted 4/17/12