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Case Study 2.2: University of Cape Town Libraries

A second example comes from the University of Cape Town (UCT) Libraries. Reggie Raju and Jill Claassen describe choices their library publishing program made to center needs of African students. As they note, choices about textbook formatting and delivery were made to account for factors including students’ learning styles and access to the Internet. Accessibility has thus been folded into the work of the UCT publishing program from the beginning.


Publishing Programme at UCT Libraries (contribution by Reggie Raju and Jill Claassen)


UCT Libraries started its publishing programme at the end of 2016 as part of its open access service. It was not long into the service that the golden thread of social justice was weaved into the purpose of the service. There was now the deliberate goal to dismantle structures that perpetuate information poverty: there was now a deliberate goal to transform access and distribution of scholarship for the growth and development of Africa’s research agenda. As one of the leading universities on the continent, it became imperative that the social justice principles underscore the need for equitable dissemination of marginalized research and to improve access to content in support of liberating repressed African scholarly content. Within this social justice paradigm was the commitment to ‘denortherise’ the publishing landscape, to advance the decolonisation of scholarship and to democratize access and dissemination of information.


UCT Libraries publishes both journals and monographs. In keeping with the principle of improving the dissemination and accessibility of African content, there is a very strong commitment to diamond open access publishing—that is, neither the author nor their institution pay publication fees, article processing charges or other fees associated with getting scholarship published.


In delivering a social justice driven publishing service, several innovations had to be investigated, tested and rolled-out. African challenges such as the exorbitant cost of bandwidth and connectivity interruptions together with frequent black outs had to be factored-in to deliver an “access for all” service. This publishing service includes five journals and 16 monographs with three more titles in production.


New features were investigated and implemented for the monograph publishing programme in response to perceived needs of an African scholarly community. There are three publication that showcase these new features. The first book is the Atlas of Paediatric HIV Infection: An Illustrated Guide for Health Care Professionals. The authors of this atlas are from five different institutions from three different countries (Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa). This atlas includes photographs of varying skin and systemic conditions and opportunistic infections in HIV-infected paediatric patients. The aim of the atlas is to illustrate conditions recorded in paediatric patients presenting to HIV clinics and wards in an African setting. The photographs have the capacity to be magnified to support the examination of the skin condition.


The second book is Open Access Atlas of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Operative Surgery: Volume 1 – Head and Neck. There is a dire shortage of otolaryngologists in Africa. This shortage of specialists is exacerbated by the lack of facilities. To bridge these inadequacies, this textbook has embedded audio and video clips to simulate research and learning environments. The view of the Library was that the audio and video clips will help students understand surgical procedures outside the classroom and assist practicing doctors in Africa with the latest advances in the field. The book is available in a format that accommodates content being downloaded and viewed offline, or streamed, when connectivity is available. This option offers the doctors the opportunity to download the book on their cell phones for use when they are in rural areas.


The third book is the Constitutional Law for Students. This is a textbook for students and written by students, to help navigate the complex world of constitutional law. This book aims to clarify concepts and increase understanding around the various aspects of constitutional law, one of the most challenging areas covered in the South African law degree. It is important to note that a large cohort of the student body are second or later English-speaking students who have challenges navigating dense legal content. To address this challenge, the book has an audio format which allows for students to listen to the book before reading it: this format also supports different learning styles. Embedded in the textbook, are mini workbooks to help students prepare for the constitutional law examination. Testimony to the success of the book is the number of downloads from across the country – for November that download count was 3762.


As smartphones are more available than computers, content can be viewed in html or epub format, ensuring wider accessibility on the African continent. Although initially, the text-to-voice features was not part of the rationale for creating two formats, the corresponding feature in the latest version of Microsoft Edge facilitates the read-aloud to the reader.


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Case Study 2.2: University of Cape Town Libraries by Talea Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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