University of Johannesburg: The role of the library in the 21st century

Around the world this week (25-31 October), International Open Access Week is being commemorated. The aim is to acknowledge and share information about the broad international movement that ‘seeks to grant free and open online access to academic information, such as publications and data.

The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Library Services hosted guest speaker Dr Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost of the University College London (UCL) Library Services and Office for Open Science and Scholarship, to talk about Open Science and the role of UCL.

The 2021 global theme for Open Access Week is “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.”

UJ Library’s Director for Research, Teaching and Learning Ms Nomoya Mahlangu said the University was looking into strengthening the publishing side of the library and publishing open access was the way to go.

She highlighted the need to better understand Open Science, Publishing, Research Data Management and Open Education Resources.

Dr Ayris spoke about the eight pillars of Open Science which include Fair Data, Education and Skills, Research Integrity and Rewards.

“The office has been established to do three things; to offer leadership to the university in moving to embrace open access and open science; to advocate for open science and open access initiatives and developments; and to engage and work alongside academic researchers and teachers so that open science becomes the norm rather than the exception.”

He added that setting up a Press was a great way of getting academic support for Open Science as it was seen as something that helped get work out into the world.

“The library is the single biggest operator in the open science space. It is an opportunity to redefine what the role of a library is in the 21st century research environment. We no longer simply catalogue books or curate their storage, we actually create them through the Press. The library now is a creator, storer and cataloguer of knowledge.”

He said this sent the message to university colleagues that libraries were part of the teaching and research activities in universities to deliver better experiences for students.