Strategic Planning and Homo naledi: International Experience in INFO 204

CIRI Blog

Published: September 21, 2015 by Sue Alman

Early in September the world learned of a new human-like species based on the discovery of partial skeletons in a burial chamber deep in a cave system in South Africa. The researcher who made this discovery, Lee Berger, is on the faculty of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

While that discovery is exciting, it has even more relevance for the two sections of INFO 204 that I’m teaching this term because the students are engaged in a project with the Wits University Deputy Librarian, Mr. Paiki Muswazi.

Beginning in the fall of 2014 Mr. Muswazi and I agreed to collaborate on a strategic planning project with the INFO 204 students. We settled on an assignment for the students who enrolled in the Intensive section of the course during the Spring 2015 semester with the idea that the work could be used as evidence for Competency O.

The class members were divided into teams, and they were instructed to review the recording and analyze the strategic planning documents provided by Mr. Muswazi. Their assignment was to prioritize the library’s goals as identified in the strategic plan and develop a report focused on the implementation of those goals. In addition, the student teams conducted a comparative analysis between the strategic plans of the Wits Library and a second library of their choice.

The projects were so successful that Mr. Muswazi agreed to continue our collaboration in the Fall 2015 term by working with the students in the two sections of INFO 204 to recommend a plan to develop a 21st century academic library. The students must review Mr. Muswazi’s informational recording that focuses on the strategic plan and Wits, analyze the strategic planning documents, and research the materials of other academic libraries that have 21st century plans. Each student team will develop a report that contains realistic strategies for the Wits University Library to make changes in programs, services, and facilities. They have been provided with a template of the areas that must be covered in their recommendations.

The discovery of the new human species, homo naledi, has created a mass of scholarly communication that must be retrieved and organized. Mr. Muswazi reports that he and another librarian are involved in the new project to gather the papers and materials of Professor Lee Berger for the University repository. The students now have this added responsibility to add to the Wits University Library goals—a massive project that wasn’t known at the start of the fall term. They are gaining practical international experience and are learning about the need to be ready for contingency planning in addition to formal strategic planning.

The team project that encompasses strategic planning and international experience is a model that might be considered for other subject areas.