Stellenbosch University Library Service Afrikaans
From reading room to Library Service
The origin of the University of Stellenbosch dates back to the Stellenbosch Gymnasium which was established in 1866. In 1874 the Gymnasium formed its own professorial division, the Arts Department, which in turn led to the establishment of the Stellenbosch College in 1881. The name of the College was changed to the Victoria College of Stellenbosch in 1887, the jubilee year of Queen Victoria’s reign, and on 2 April 1918 the University Act, replacing the Victoria College by the University of Stellenbosch, came into effect.
In 1895 a notice appeared in the Calender of the Victoria College stating that "the College has a Reading and Reference Library for the use of students and during the past year an additional room has been set apart as a Reading Room". This reading room was situated in the Old Main Building and the material available there originated from the collections of the Stellenbosch Gymnasium, the Arts Department of the Gymnasium and the Stellenbosch College, later known as the Victoria College.
During the first few years of its existence the Victoria College possessed a meagre collection of books which simply was inadequate and unworthy of an academic institution. Of this state of affairs Prof William Thomson declared in 1893: "It would require a very practical imagination to be able to call the small bookcase in the Senate Hall a library. It is not an inspiring thing to see the students waiting for the next instalment of the professional feeding bottle instead of cultivating habits of independent study and research in a well-appointed library".
It was probably this frustration among the students which caused two of them, JBM Hertzog and W Neethling, to meet the Senate as early as 1888 to request the provision of suitable housing for the existing collection. Students readily expressed interest in providing reference materials and organising and supervising the library. The result was that money for journal subscriptions was collected by them. The Junior Debating Society, the Victoria College Volunteer Corps and the Cadets became involved as well and this led to the establishment of a "reading and reference library” by 1895, as stated in the Calender.
By the turn of the century, however, the establishment of a "College Library and Museum" had become a necessity. Thanks to a generous donation from a benefactor of Stellenbosch, Mr CL Marais, contributions from the Stellenbosch Distriksbank and the Colonial Government, the erection of a library building on the northern side of College Square was started in 1900 and completed in 1901.
With the establishment of the University of Stellenbosch in 1918, the CL Marais Library continued to fulfil its important task. Around 1920 the administrative offices of the University moved to other premises. Mr GV (George) Marais was appointed Librarian in 1926 and was Chief Librarian until 1967, a period of 42 years. Despite limited staff during the early years, the library provided an excellent service and in 1928 the University Commission reported that the "library can be regarded as a model for and inspiration to other institutions".
In 1926 the CL Marais Library had to be extended and by 1938 it had become clear that an entirely new line of thought was necessary.
As early as 1912 the Scots-American millionaire Andrew Carnegie donated the sum of £6 000 towards the extension and maintenance of the library of the Victoria College. An additional donation of £1 500 from the Carnegie Corporation to the University of Stellenbosch in 1938, as well as contributions from alumni enabled the University to build a new library.
In 1967 Mr Francois du Plessis, who joined the library staff in 1945, was appointed University Librarian. Due to his professional and academic abilities, his love of books and his knowledge of the book trade, Mr du Plessis was able to develop the University Library as an indispensable information source.
Prior to his retirement in 1983 Mr du Plessis was also actively involved in the planning of the next and present phase of the University Library, namely the erection of the JS Gericke Library, named after the Reverend JS (Kosie) Gericke who served as Vice-chancellor of the University from 1952 to 1981.
The construction of the JS Gericke Library building commenced in 1981 and in 1983 the move to the new building took place.
This building occupies the unique position of being underneath the centrally situated Jan Marais Square. The reason for this unique position is that in planning a new library it was found that, apart from the Jan Marais Square, no centrally situated building sites were available on campus. However, the historical importance of the Jan Marais Square and the architectural aesthetics of the historic buildings surrounding the square meant that this site could not be defaced with a multi-storeyed building. It was therefore decided to build underground.
The JS Gericke Library can accommodate approximately one million volumes. It also provides 1400 study seats, 10 seminar rooms, 27 study cubicles and a well-appointed lecture hall with 146 seats.
In the mid-1980’s a new collective name for the JS Gericke Library, the six branch and satellite libraries and the various departmental collections was devised, namely the University of Stellenbosch Library Service.
Prof JH (Hennie) Viljoen, became Director of the Library Service in 1984, after the retirement of Mr du Plessis. In 1987 Prof Viljoen was awarded professorial status by virtue of his part-time teaching assignment at the Department of Information Science and in 1993 his position as Director of the Library Service was promoted to that of Senior Director.
Under his leadership the Library Service grew to a complement of 120 full-time staff members. Milestones reached during this period include the commencement of services in the new JS Gericke Library; the computerisation of the Library Service; the introduction of a collection development policy and a formula for the allocations of funds; the introduction of a successful commercial information service (Infobank); a performance evaluation system for staff; and a formal agreement for regional co-operation among the five tertiary institutions in the Western Cape (CALICO). Under the directorship of Prof Viljoen the Library Service the Library moved into the electronic information age and was at the forefront of developments in this ever-changing environment.
The Theology Library, previously known as the Seminary Library, is the oldest branch library, as well as being the oldest library on campus. Since its establishment in 1859 the Theological Seminary was fortunate in being the recipient of valuable book donations from a variety of eminent theologians, ministers of the Church and members of the public. The Church gave the Seminary its support from the start and even before the Seminary was instituted, the Synod resolved to collect money for establishing a library. This support continues to this day.
In 1963 the Theological Seminary was incorporated into the University of Stellenbosch as the Faculty of Theology. With this incorporation the then University Library acquired a large collection of valuable theological literature which formed the basis of the Theology Library as it stands today. The wide spectrum covered in its collection acquired over a period of more than 100 years contributes greatly to the quality of the service being rendered to its clients.
During the middle of the 1990’s it was evident that increased use of the Theology Library and its growing collection would necessitate the re-planning of the library. Alterations to the library commenced in 1997 and were completed during 1998. The available space was modified to include a new entrance with a detector system, a separate study room for students, space for photocopying facilities in the library and a new staff room.
The teaching of music in Stellenbosch made great strides in the latter part of the nineteenth century and in 1900 it was felt that a central school of music should be founded. This led to the establishment of the “South African Conservatorium of Music”, the first of its kind in South Africa, in 1905.
The initial small collection of books only became a library when the Conservatorium was incorporated into the University of Stellenbosch and became a department of the Faculty of Arts in 1934. In the beginning the library merely occupied a few shelves in the office of the then head of the Conservatorium, Prof Maria Fismer. Later a separate room was made available to house the growing collection consisting of a number of 78-speed records, a book catalogue and about 200 books donated to the University by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Between 1961 and 1964 the first two staff members were appointed and the task of creating order in the existing collection as well as in the numerous bequests commenced. Since then the Music Library has developed into one of the largest academic music libraries in the country with a well-appointed collection of various printed and audio-visual media in the subject field.
The old Conservatorium building, still situated in Van Riebeeck Street, was used by the Department of Music until the end of 1977. In 1978 the Department and the Music Library moved to the new building in Victoria Street.
In 1999, after 21 years in its new premises, the ever-increasing use of the library, its growing collection and changes in its functions and client services necessitated the re-planning of the library. Structural changes, including, inter alia, additional offices for staff members and a new location for the library’s special collections, were completed early in 2000.
The Health Sciences Library, previously known as the Medical Library and Tygerberg Campus Library, came into existence in 1957 with a humble collection of about 3000 volumes of books and bound periodicals and 200 current periodical titles and was situated in a few small back rooms of the Karl Bremer Hospital in Bellville.
With the establishment of the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry (now known as the Faculty of Health Sciences), as well as the University’s teaching hospital in Tygerberg, the library was also moved to the Tygerberg campus. Over the years the library underwent various transformations and moved several times.
Since 1987 re-planning of the available space has resulted in maximum utilisation of users’ and office areas, information services to teaching staff and students have been considerably extended and the library collection currently consists of more than 53 000 print volumes, 700 current journal titles and a large variety of audio-visual and electronic resources.
Since its very beginning a library was seen as a priority for the Graduate School of Business. As early as 1964 a number of books were purchased with funds made available by donations.
The first actual library was, however, only established in 1972 when the Business School occupied premises in Skuilhoek, Victoria Street, on the Stellenbosch campus. In the same year it was decided to move the Business School to Bellville. Some old pre-fabricated buildings which had been vacated by the Medical Faculty and which were situated behind the Karl Bremer Hospital became the new home of the Business School and its library.
In 1975 the library officially became a satellite library of the then University Library and a substantial number of books on business management was transferred to Bellville.
In 1986 the Business School moved to its present premises and in 1992 the Graduate School of Business Library, as it was known at the time, became a full branch library of the University of Stellenbosch Library Service.
In 1996 the library of the then Extramural Division of the University (presently the Department of Part-time Studies) consolidated with the Graduate School of Business Library and this combined library is now known as USBI (University of Stellenbosch Bellville Park Campus Information Centre).
With the inauguration of the new facility, USBI, in may 2002, users can now gain access to the services of a state-of-the-art learning and information centre benchmarked against the highest international standards in information services.
USBI was created as a multi-functional one-stop information and services facility where clients can hire laptops, arrange courier services, make photocopies, send faxes, scan articles to disks, obtain prescribed textbooks and consult their librarians. USBI has been designed and cabled for full digital delivery in the future.
Engineering Library and Forestry Library
The Faculty of Engineering was established in 1944 and was the first of its kind at an Afrikaans university.
The construction of the present building complex of the Faculty commenced in the 1960’s but was only completed in 1979 and, due to financial constraints, did not make provision for a library. The engineering collection was therefore at the time still housed in the central library. However, the need for library facilities on the premises occupied by the Faculty became urgent and in 1976 it was decided to provide a library service for the exclusive use of engineering lecturers and students on the third floor of the Computer Centre of the Faculty.
From 1980 the Engineering Library grew rapidly. In 1981 it ran out of space and a room was provided in the Civil Engineering building. In 1992 the library was further extended to accommodate the rapidly growing collection and the increasing use of its facilities. Through the years various structural expansions took place.
In 1950 Prof CL Wicht, then head of the Institute of Forestry and Timber Technology, made a request to the University authorities that the collection of books dealing with forestry in the University Library be transferred to the Institute. In the same year a sum of money was voted to be used toward the acquisition of a number of valuable books from the library of the late Prof EJ Neethling (head of the Institute from 1932 to 1949), after whom the library was named.
1960 saw the founding of the Faculty of Forestry. Since its inception the large pamphlet collection of about 60 000 items (the largest in Africa, and probably in the southern hemisphere) has been acquired and is constantly being expanded.
In 1989 a well-known timber firm, Hunt, Leuchars and Hepburn, voted a considerable sum of money toward buying computer equipment and for an additional staff member whose task it was to enter the pamphlet collection in a data base.
In 1992 the Forestry Library became a satellite library of the University of Stellenbosch Library Service and for the first time since its inception its staff became full members of the Library Service staff. In the early part of 1999 the library was largely expanded with the addition of a second floor.
In 2002 the Departments Forestry, Wood Science and Conservation Ecology became part of the Faculty of AgriSciences, Dept Conservation Ecology moved to another building and student numbers dropped. All these factors contributed to the decision to amalgamate the Forestry Library with the Engineering Library. Two adjacent classrooms were added to the existing Engineering library. In March 2006 the combined Engineering and Forestry Library was inaugurated.
Stellenbosch University Library and Information Services / updated