I can’t believe I’ve let so much time pass without updating and now of course it’s playing catch up trying to remember everything that’s happened. So Thursday I met with the library folks as well as the 2005 cohort. Walter introduces me Lindiwe Soyozkapi and she took me on a tour of the Life Sciences Library. The have a sizeable collection and access to a number of databases (the standards like CAB and BIOSIS, PubMed and Medline, as well as some we don’t have (CSA’s Illumina collection and Sabinet, a collection of South African resources). I’m bringing back a list of the non-overlapping databases to see if we have coverage in a similar area. Also they have a sizeable collection of research (particularly theses and pamphlets) in African agricultural research (including beer brewing!), which may be interesting to Mann students. In talking Lindwe and I discovered a number of commonalities—rising costs of scientific journal literature, difficulties in getting students in the habit of database searching instead of just Googling it, making sure that they evaluate websites, the use of offsite storage and scanning, learning on the job as an “accidental” life sciences librarian and the fun of it, job shortages and lack of entry-level opportunities and the need for more diversity in librarianship among others. The differences—Dewey vs. LCSH, collection development primarily by department with subject librarians filling in rather than vice versa, lack of remote access (though this will change soon)—were not so much in comparison. It was great fun getting to talk to her and I learned a great deal.

We went back for tea and talked to Walter and Tongo about complementarities with the library and I also had another good talk with Beulah John about student support and literature reviews. Then I gave a presentation to the students in the 2005 cohort which went off OK despite my technical difficulties with help from Beulah and Fee,

Lindiwe then took me to the main library in the afternoon where I met Carol Brammage and Pravesh who direct the Main Library. We talked about similar issues as well as the move toward remote access and the work toward an interuniversity consortium between and their move to a new catalog. I’m planning to keep in touch about our plans for reaching the distance education students (they are hampered by the same concerns and difficulties with Internet and e-mail access and the unreliability of the postal system as well and haven’t really reached out to distance students much). Lindwe took me on a tour of the main library as well which was packed with students (it’s exam time) and she pointed out the shrinking study space. I told her about the info commons concept and the replacement of books in the UT undergrad library, which blew her mind.

I did a little shopping at the Scottsville Mall since it was clear that something I had eaten really didn’t agree with me and that an unfortunate side effect of the summer weather and blooming jacarandas was a sinus infection. I also needed to look for an adapter that worked for my electronic equipment (mine was just a hair too small) as well as a cell hone since the one I borrowed wasn’t working.

Later that evening, Tongo and John Derera took me out to Spurs, a steakhouse in Liberty Mall in the suburbs. It was trippy to go to a mall bigger than Pyramid in Ithaca with shops that had different names but sold the same things and more and eat in a steakhouse which, though it served gammon steak and burgers with monkey gland sauce (a kind of chutney, not what it sounds like), also did that chanting happy birthday thing and played Evanescence.

John and Tongo talked plant breeding (which was interesting, but like the Far Side cartoon with the dog listening to his masters, went “wah wah Camille wah wah hybrid wah wah wah Camille wah wah wah corn and disease resistance” for me) and they told me about the current situation in Zimbabwe (grim). Apparently you can get foreign currency in and change it to ZAR, but there is no official trading so there’s a huge black market. It’s a crazy situation. We also talked about the differences between what I was seeing in South Africa and what was going on in the rest of black Africa, which is great. It’s hard for me to grasp but I think I’m starting to get an idea. After all of this talk of leadership in Africa and plant breeding, they took me on a short tour of the city and then John and I went back to the hostel and had coffee and talked about TEEAL and AGORA and his thesis. He’s an absolutely brilliant student, extremely focused, motivated and organized. He’s finishing his Ph.D. a year early and in the midst of it, giving a presentation at a conference in Uganda. And by all reports from Tongo and Walter his research is outstanding. It was a pleasure to get to talk to him.

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