The Fellows Journal is a forum for the current Library Publishing Coalition fellows to share their experiences and raise topics for discussion within the community. Learn more about the Fellowship Program.
I am Reggie Raju, currently the Deputy Director: Research and Learning Services at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. I am originally from an east coast city in South Africa called Durban. I am the son of indentured labourers who were brought from India to work the sugar cane farms on the east coast of South Africa. Coming from a struggle background in which some members of my family were either exiled or imprisoned, the struggles against the apartheid system had taught me important lessons in life one of which was the drive for social justice.
Growing up in the apartheid era meant that jobs were very difficult to come by for people of colour. I had absolutely no intention of working in a library but ended up in a library through necessity. I am, for all intents and purposes, an anomaly to the common thinking that all librarians are well read and have a passion for reading – this passion was only cultivated when I began working in a library. Further, the assumption that all librarians grew up with books is a misnomer for those of us who were on the ‘wrong end’ of the apartheid system.
I started my career in the library as a messenger – this was the only job offer that I received after many months of looking for one. Once appointed as a messenger, the smartest thing I ever did was align myself to an excellent mentor who eventually ended becoming my wife (Jaya).
Jaya and I completed our library qualifications together in 1985. We went on to complete our honours and masters degrees. Our academic studies were pleasantly interrupted by the birth of our two children which meant one of us pushing ahead with a PhD and the other following a bit later so that our children still received the necessary attention. Jaya went into academia and I stayed in the library. I spent twenty odd years at the libraries at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In 2008 I was offered the post of Director at the University of Stellenbosch, one of the leading research universities on the African continent.
It was here, at the University of Stellenbosch (SU), where I began to dabble around with open access. As the Director responsible for scholarly communication, a relatively new job position for South African academic libraries, I had the freedom to experiment with institutional repositories and open access publishing. It would be remiss of me not to mention the significant role played by Ina Smith (now currently working for Academy of Science of South Africa) in mainstreaming open access services at the University of Stellenbosch.
I moved to the University of Cape Town in 2013. At the time of my leaving SU for UCT, SU was hosting 15 journal titles. UCT on the other hand, was getting off the ‘open access’ starting blocks. For many years UCT has been ranked as the number one university in Africa. As a leading research university in Africa, it was unthinkable that it was not openly sharing its research output with, at the least, African researchers or researchers from the global south. Excellent research relevant to addressing African challenges were being published in closed journals – totally inaccessible to African researchers as their universities could not afford the subscription.
The benefit of UCT being a late comer to the openness movement, is that it could harvest the positives and ‘leap frog’ the challenges that other institutions had to deal with. Be that as it may, UCT began with a mandatory open access policy. Unfortunately, we could not find the silver bullet with regard to mandatory self-archiving. Given the significance of openness and the university’s social responsiveness agenda, UCT Libraries restructured to give greater prominence to openness. In the new structure, the scholarly communication office was split into a repository arm and a publishing arm. The publishing arm was divided further into journal publishing and monograph publishing.
In more recent months, there has been a focus on the publishing of journals and monographs. In a short space of time, UCT Libraries has managed to solicit the support of editors-in-chief to host six journals – two of the journals are international, that is, a collaboration with more than one institution from more than one country. UCT Libraries has taken the lead on the African continent in the provision of library publishing services for monographs. This publishing service must be viewed against the backdrop of the events over the last two years (2015-2016) in South Africa: almost all of the 26 higher education institutions in the country, over this period, had some form of student protest. The demand of the students is for decolonised and quality affordable higher education. UCT Libraries is of the opinion that the offer of an open monograph publishing service, including an open textbook publishing service, will contribute to meeting some of the demands of students.
As a Fellow of the LPC, learnings gleaned from my participation will be used to grow the publishing programme of many of institutions in South Africa and Africa. By the same token, there are African experiences that could be shared with the LPC community. The fact that the African publishing programme is underpinned by social justice imperatives will go a long way to initiating and nurturing partnerships between the global north and global south for the benefit of both societies.
The LPC has much to offer the global south and my participation in the LPC will, hopefully, provide the initial steps in bridging the information publishing divide.