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21st Century libraries for Wits

- Refilwe Mabula

Wits' new University Librarian plans to transform Wits libraries into 21st Century libraries.

New University Librarian, Paiki Muswazi wants to build cosmopolitan, digitally friendly and visually attractive libraries for Wits, which will appeal to the needs of the new, “tech-savvy” student.

“Times have changed so much. If you were to go to our shelves inside the library, you will see that some of them are accumulating dust, and the vision is to reshape all those spaces and make them more of a 21st Century library where you can walk in and you are faced with this visually appealing place with redone workspaces, new chairs and desks,” says Muswazi.

“We need new, flexible spaces, where you don’t necessarily have to sit at a desk to read from your I-Pad. Nowadays we also want spaces where three or four people can converse openly and they are not disturbing anybody.”

Muswazi, who has over two decades of experience in information science management, not only wants to transform the library space, but also plans to make the Universities’ information discovery system more intuitive.

“We want to be able to create a platform whereby, when you do your search, new search terms can pop up, which you probably might be interested in and it searches on all the databases,” he says.

“One search box must be able to interrogate all the databases.”

Currently, some of these databases are stand-alone databases, which have to be searched independently.

“This year we are implementing what is called the Sierra Library Management System that gives us the platform to do some of these things,” he says.

Muswazi assumed duties for his new role on 4 January 2016, after serving at Wits University for over 10 years, rotating in various positions at the Wits libraries.

Working at Wits over the past decade has been an enthralling experience for Muswazi, keeping him motivated as he moved up between positions.

“Every two or three years, I have been in a position and that has kept me excited. We run a big library with so many interesting things happening every day.”

Before his current role, Muswazi was the Deputy Librarian at Wits for five years.

He joined Wits in 2005 as a Senior Librarian for Education and Training, where he spearheaded the information literacy programme, training academics, staff and students to access electronic information resources.

His interest in information sciences started during his early days as a history student at the University of Zimbabwe, and was subsequently employed by the National Archives of Zimbabwe before receiving a scholarship to study at Simmons College in the USA where he obtained his Master of Library and Information Sciences degree.

After completing his degree, he returned to Zimbabwe and did a short stint at the Zimbabwe National Archives as an archivist and moved on to join the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority in Harare for six years, where he left serving as the Chief Executive’s Assistant.

In 1994, he got an opportunity to serve in the education sector at the University of Swaziland Library where he worked for over ten years.

The father of three sons is proud of his association with Wits.

“When you see how the research output at Wits has gone up, you would want to be associated with Wits. I am attached to Wits because of that. It is an achievement driven institution.”

He describes himself as patient, calm and passionate individual who treats people equally and with respect.