n Mousaion - The formative years of the University of South Africa Library, 1946 to 1976




This article explores the early history of the University of South Africa (Unisa) Library from its tentative roots in the 1940s to maturity in the mid 1970s when South Africa was confronted by dramatic political upheaval. It traces its growth and examines its strategies to achieve a comprehensive information service for students studying by correspondence. The peculiar modalities of such 'distance education' led to various innovations. For example, the Unisa Library pioneered computerisation, a comprehensive subject librarian service and an elaborate study collection organised through a number of branch libraries. The intriguing political struggles of Unisa to maintain its identity as a bilingual (Afrikaans-English) institution offering working adults, both black and white, the chance to study part-time are also analysed, and the rapid expansion of the Unisa Library's book, journal and archival collections is discussed. Rapacious apartheid education depended on, but also had to contend with, strong university leadership under A.J.H. van der Walt, Samuel Pauw and Theo van Wijk. Unisa's growing stature in the 1970s allowed its library to punch above its weight in information circles. Its sponsorship by mainly Afrikaner big business demonstrated close links with the white establishment, which proved beneficial in transforming the Unisa Library into a premier research facility by 1976.


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