Ms Sanele Kunene, newly appointed Director of Library and Information Services (LIS) at the Pretoria Campus.
Ms Kunene, who started in her new position on 1 September 2020, further says she is in this position to continue serving the University with humility and integrity.
She is no newcomer to the academic space. During her 20 year experience in the academic librarianship field, Ms Kunene has headed two libraries of different backgrounds. She headed the research centres for the School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performances, which is a private higher education institution. During her tenure it had two campuses in Cape Town and Johannesburg. She also headed the TUT Mbombela Campus Library, which she believes she left as a semi re-imagined environment.
“I have served in the Library and Information Association of South Africa committee for Higher Education Libraries Interest Group (2014 – 2018) and am still actively involved. I also served as a member of the National Library of South Africa Board (2015 – 2020) where I was part of two committees; namely the Human Resources and Remuneration Committee, and the Finance Committee,” says Ms Kunene. She adds that the TUT LEAD programme has contributed immensely towards her leadership skills.
Asked about her short and medium term plans for LIS, Ms Kunene says she wants to build a strong team with high levels of trust that will be ready for the challenges ahead.
“Covid-19 has taught us the new normal – to embrace 4IR, rather than fear it. When Covid-19 struck, we all thought we were not ready. However, we had to figure out how we can save the academic year. We tested technology and it worked.”
This confirms the sentiments of former President Nelson Mandela when he said: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” “As LIS, we will have to ensure that our students are not left behind. We have a role to play in ensuring that TUT students are not only information literate, but also digitally literate. We have good quality staff, and we can do this. We also need to add value to the TUT research lifecycle. We must ensure that our Libraries are libraries of choice and not just a ‘by the way’ type of the thing. Our library resources and services should be such that we sustain our status of being ranked as the top University of Technology in South Africa when it comes to research,” she adds.
To her staff, Ms Kunene says: “Do not allow any external forces to make you doubt your capabilities. With a positive mind-set and good attitude, you can achieve anything. You are destined for greater things. If you are given a chance to do anything, make sure that you give it your all. Take it as an opportunity to showcase your talents.”
She adds that she would like to see the LIS’s proposed structure approved as it is very much aligned to the current Institutional Strategic Plan. “It is in line with the current trends in academic libraries. We also need to re-imagine our Libraries. Our spaces must be repurposed so that, whenever students visit our Libraries, they will feel peace, get their groove back, and get their creative ideas flowing.”
In conclusion, Ms Kunene says digital gadgets play a major role in ensuring that she does not lose contact with her family. “The bond cemented over the years is so strong that it cannot be dismantled by any workload. Furthermore, I have always maintained that weekends are mine to unplug and unwind,” she concludes.