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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to commend all its essential service workers for their dedication and commitment in providing services to the DUT community during the COVID-19 pandemic. DUT’s Communications team’s Waheeda Peters spoke to one of the remote library workers, Mousin Omar Saib who is a subject librarian at DUT’s Steve Biko Campus. He joined DUT in 2009 and became the subject librarian for the faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment in 2012.

Q: Kindly tell me about how you started your role at DUT? 

A: “It’s been a wonderful journey, a beautiful experience from my side. I started my journey at Steve Biko library as an after hours’ librarian which meant that I had to come to work in the evenings. It was an opportunity for me to grow as well and develop to where I am today.

Q: How long have you been at DUT in that role? 

A: “I started in 2009, I am working at DUT for the past 11 years now. In 2012, I then became the subject librarian for the faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.”

Q: What kind of skills does one need to be a librarian, especially online?

A: “Technological skills, Library applications, MS Office applications, pedagogical tools to enhance online facilitation or teaching, searching skills such as identifying fake news, misinformation, evaluation of information, referencing etc.”

Q: How do you engage with students online, any particular programmes during COVID-19?

A: “The library has purchased an online tool which we use, called Springer LibApps which is very popular internationally for libraries. This tool can help librarians engage with students at different levels. It is customised per faculty and department within the LibApps platform. Libapps is divided into three main areas. 

Libguides: resourceful academic information e.g. subject specific e-collections such as e-books, ejournals, online databases, reference guide, how to search the DUT Library etc. customised per department. Libchat: chatting to a librarian online.

Ref analytics: librarians use it to respond to a user query should they miss the Libchat call whilst online. I have students from industrial, mechanical, electronical and electrical power, and I have Libguides for each of them. Libapp allows us librarians to engage the DUT community at different levels, including at a consultative level.”

Q: My typical day begins …

A: “My typical day begins with me engaging with students via the online tool called Libapp, MS Teams, email and face to face within COVID-19 Protocols when I am on campus. When I speak about, pre-COVID-19, and post COVID-19, this tool, LibApps, was available for the past 4 to 5 years now, where you can engage with a student online. So, we were well prepared for COVID-19 It allowed us to now use this tool quite intensely when COVID-19 did occur. So, if a student called the library via the tool live chat, he or she is directed to their faculty librarian who would be able to assist him or her on the live chat. The librarian can then extend their engagement with the student using MS teams or email, etc.

The other tool is Ref analytics. Every query that I deal with, either via the email, Libchat or MS teams, I can then record it on Ref analytics. This tool provides analytical data that the library can use to measure services for different faculties. The Ref analytics tool allows me to capture what I assisted the student or staff with, and whether it was for the database or not knowing how to reference, or use Moodle in some instances, finding a book, journal etc. All these various tools allow the librarian to engage with students at all these different levels.

Also, there’s the teaching aspect as well. At the university we are big on information literacy skills. The library is involved in teaching information literacy skills from the first year-undergraduate right to your postgraduate level. Even at your Masters and PHD level, students might have the theoretical knowledge of research methodology, however, in applying research skills we find support is important. Things like, where to find the academic information for your assignments/research, evaluate information resources, referencing, plagiarism and academic integrity, how to write appropriately, referencing using software such as EndNote, Orcid ID etc. all these aspects are covered from the time the student enters the university for their first year right up to postgraduate.”

Q: How would you describe yourself? 

A: “I love to share whatever knowledge I have with my colleagues. It helps us grow a better DUT ultimately.” 

Q: What are your hobbies? 

A: “I love playing soccer.” 

Q: How do you accomplish your duties during these trying times? 

A: “Learn, understand and share practices. This will help colleagues within DUT to reach our goals and objectives. These include digital tools, improving digital skills and being level headed.”

Q: Are you a series or reality TV person? 

A: “A reality TV person.”  

Q: How do you cope with student online requests from the library, especially during COVID-19?

A: “We have different technologies that we can use like Libchat.  We also have MS Teams and Moodle. We can create appointments, which we do on MS teams. Librarians can teach students either on one on-one sessions or on group sessions using MS Teams, as it is a shared platform.”

Q: Your favourite part of the day?

A: “Helping my colleagues, for me it is very fulfilling besides only concentrating on my work. I am able to share my knowledge and learn from my colleagues as well.   Helping my colleagues also benefits the DUT library and ultimately we are all leaning towards the Envision 2030.”

Q: What are the main challenges that you normally face daily?

 A: “Some students don’t have access to data and ICTS.  As a library last year we created something called ‘IL on a stick’., The student could go to their respective department and collect a flash drive with all the resources they would need for a particular area that we are teaching or to help them with using the library. Presently, this is not possible, so these are the challenges right now. A lack of data and ICTS during COVID-19 is a challenge within DUT as it is within the African continent.”

Q: If you had one wish what would it be?

A: “Trust each other and be accountable for what we do. Trust, accountability and responsibility. This will allow us to work toward shared DUT goals and objectives.”

Q: What do you treasure the most in life?

A: “My family.”

Q: What is your practical advice or mantra you follow and that you would like to share with students?

A: “Work hard and play hard.”

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