By Aurelia Mouton
Across social media, a new viral hit has taken the Stellenbosch University (SU) campus by storm. From the book-laden halls of the SU Library come four fun-loving and innovative faculty librarians with a noble mission: to inform Stellies students of the world-renowned library at their fingertips. The faculty librarians behind @facultylibrariansu on Instagram spoke to Die Matie to let the students know all about it and it’s social media savvy staff.
“We joined TikTok just to see what’s happening because it feels like no one is on Facebook and Twitter anymore, which [were] the library’s main [way] of disseminating information. The idea was to make it fun, to make us approachable, to engage with the students on a platform where they are,” said Pepler Head, faculty librarian for the Economic and Management Sciences faculty.
“In the videos that we have made so far, you can see it’s our first objective. Here and there you can see we have started sharing some educational videos, so we also want to bring in content that promotes some of the services and databases and tools [at the library] to help students with their studies.”
Head is joined by Sanda Nyoka (Law faculty librarian), Elizabeth Moll-Willard (AgriSciences faculty librarian), and Marié Theron (Science faculty librarian). The four form the “steering committee” for the @facultylibrariansu accounts on various platforms. Their Instagram and TikTok team is made up of Pieter du Plessis, Hanlie Strydom, Lucinda Raath, Marleen Hendriksz, Niel Hendriksz, and Sarie Wilbers, who represent the Law, Economic and Management Sciences, and Arts and Social Sciences faculties respectively.
When asked about their viral Shrek video—posted as a reel on Instagram—boasting almost 8000 views and countless reposts, Nyoka said, “It’s weird and it is exciting! I have people look at me sideways when they [recognise] me from the video! It really is exciting because with the [social media] platforms, we are showing a fun side; and for students [it] is good to know that we can relate.”
Nyoka further explained that they want students to know that the librarians understand the struggles they experience in the library space and that the challenges students face do not go unseen or unheard. “The idea is that they [the students] can come up to me and say: “I saw your face on a TikTok video; I saw you were dancing. There is no way I can’t ask you a question!” Nyoka joked.
“We want to show the Maties that we care and that it is okay to reach out to us. Many students apologise for wasting our time when contacting us, but we are here for you, to support you. You are not wasting our time; we are here to support,” said Theron, with Head adding, “Don’t struggle alone, we are here to help you.”
The team suggested that students make use of all the services available to them for free at SU. They also invite students to visit the recently renovated SU library as well as its Makerspace—a facility available to all students to do training, designing and construction in 3D printing and scanning. Training sessions at the Makerspace can be booked on the library website.
“Our library is unique and [is] a world class library. Even with our closing announcement, we play the song ‘Closing Time’, which many students know. . . . [E]ven people who have graduated remember it and are nostalgic,” said Moll-Willard.
“It’s special and specific to the Stellenbosch University Library.”
The team of librarian influencers said that they have received a lot of support from their colleagues and their divisional manager, Delene Pretorious. The SU Library’s senior director, Ms. Ellen Tise, has even given them hot tips on social media trends. The librarians have also received positive responses from students at SU, and from libraries at other South African universities as well as from libraries abroad.
The team can be found on Instagram and TikTok under the name @facultylibrariansu, and the main SU library can be found on their website Stellenbosch University Library. The official SU Library social media links are https://www.facebook.com/StellenboschUniversityLibraries and https://twitter.com/SU_Libraries.