When Prof Jonathan Jansen – the newly appointed president of the Academy of Science of South Africa and my employer – met with us the other day, he asked a very important question. He wanted to know more about our passions. In other words: Why do we do what we do, and what makes us keep going and not give up?
It was Aristotle who said Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. Passion for my job and what I believe in played a huge role in the activities I engaged in during the past year. I am thankful and proud to have been awarded the LIASA Librarian of the Year for 2016, together with Laila Vahed. A huge thank you to LIASA and my home branch, Gauteng North, and the sponsors Sabinet, UKS and SAPNet – not only for the award, but also for creating the platform from where we as librarians can work and grow.
The highlight of my year by far was using the award money to establish a VAT registered private for-profit digital citizenship training company called “In the Cloud”, currently in the process of being accredited and registered with the MICT SETA. The vision of In the Cloud is to create digital citizens from all spheres of society, through contextualized digital citizenship training merged with theoretical principles. In an increasingly technology and data driven world people need to be taught how to use digital technologies in healthy and balanced ways, where media, information and computer literacy have become increasingly integrated. Often people are facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp and online game savvy, but lack the skills to properly access, research, find, use and upload quality information in the digital environment.
In preparation for establishing the company, quite a bit of pilot and community work have been conducted. It was great to give back of my skills. Earlier this year, in May, I presented a 2-day workshop for librarians from Mbazwana in KwaZulu-Natal. This was done in collaboration with my employer and the Faculty of Education at UP. The training covered equipping public librarians with the necessary skills to assist school-leavers, and to utilize online resources to prepare learners for future careers and the world of work. All librarians managed to create a web page on Career Guidance for their home libraries.
Conducting a workshop on digital citizenship skills for grade 11 learners at Hindle High School during the week of 3 to 7 July was a life-changing experience.
The workshop was the outcome of collective efforts by In the Cloud, SAPNet (who sponsored rented laptops, refreshments and meals for all), the Blue Bus Community Ministries (who negotiated and organized all, and who does great work in the WC) and Hindle High School in Delft (who provided the venue and Internet access for the week). In my day to day work at ASSAf I am required to think strategically, influence policy, and assist academic researchers from all over. But working with the leaders of the future such as the learners from Hindle High, remains very important for me, to never lose touch with reality and practical challenges on the ground. Not only did the learners benefit, but personally I have experienced so much determination, and eagerness among the learners to learn as much possible. They even sacrificed the first week of their school holiday to attend the workshops each day from 9:00 in the morning until 16:00 in the afternoon.
During the week the learners worked towards coming up with a new business idea, to start their own business. A colleague from the Academy of Science of South Africa, Tsepo Majake, conducted a webinar on the Thursday, during which he shared some thoughts on science as a career, Quest magazine and challenged the learners with some exciting mathematical problems. On the Friday they presented their work, and the judges (incl. a few teachers) were all highly impressed with the quality, the level on which the learners delivered, and the questions they asked one another. They had to convince potential “funders” to invest money in their business, following presenting their business case. They were expected to evaluate one another, and to think critically. They also evaluated the course through responding to 5 questions that encouraged them to do some introspection – an important part of learning. The results can be accessed from the blog I created for the past year https://loy2016blog.wordpress.com/
My experience from that one week can be captured in one word – proud. I was and still am so proud of these learners for not being the victims of their circumstances. The poster I compiled for this LIASA Conference is also dedicated to the learners and will be donated to Hindle High School, in memory of this life-changing event.
In my current position as project manager for the African Open Science Platform project, I am required to engage in dialogue and try to create an awareness of the importance of access to quality research information emanating from the African continent. Not a day goes by without artificial intelligence, machine learning, robots, coding, and data not crossing my path – trends that are expected to also have a huge impact on the way librarians go about to do their day to day business. These are also the topics I would like to make more accessible to librarians, and other parts of society, offering courses that make the unknown part of day to day work, with proper foundations in place. I had many opportunities to also travel during the past year, learning, growing, evolving and discovering on the way.
I have been on 7 international travels for my work during the past year (Spain, France, Italy, Canada, Ghana, Madagascar, Ethiopia), and I also managed to continue contributing to LIASA in different ways: serving on the LIASA Conference 2017 programme committee, presenting on digital marketing during the LIASA MAIG Seminar, presenting on digital marketing during a LIASA GN webinar, presenting during Librarian’s Day, and interviewed by eNCA during SALW 2017.
Returning to the question asked by Prof Jansen – I think I can honestly say that my passions include creating the opportunities for people to discover their own creativity, stimulating innovative thinking, overcoming fears for new technologies, reskilling themselves and not losing momentum, optimally using technology in a healthy and balanced way as downloaders of high quality information, but also as uploaders and contributors to the knowledge base. Our country, the continent needs more lifelong learners, researchers and entrepreneurs – people with the skills to go out and create new jobs, rather than merely finding jobs, of which there are not enough.
On this note I want to end, and leave you with the same question I was asked: what is your passion?
The highlights of my term as Librarian of the Year were posted to a blog I created for this purpose. You are most welcome to read about my journey by visiting it at the web address provided. https://loy2016blog.wordpress.com/
Awards do not only acknowledge success; they also recognize many other qualities, such as ability, struggle, effort, internal motivation, but above all – excellence. I want to wish my fellow Librarian of the Year well, and also the incoming librarian/librarians of the year. Thank you.