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Executive Librarian 2019

F.l.t.r. Freda van Wyk - Nevada LMS; Ros Hattingh - Sabinet; Neesha Ramsumar - UKS; Robert Moropa - 2019 Executive Librarian of the Year


At the LIASA Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony held on Thursday 03 October 2019 in Durban at the International Convention Centre, Mr Robert Mororpa was announced as the second winner of the Executive Librarian Award.  This award sponsored by Nevada LMS (previously known as SAPnet), Sabinet and UKS is aimed at recognising the captains of the Library and Information Services (LIS) profession; the powerhouses who are currently inspiring and building a legacy, not only for themselves but also for all LIS practitioners.

Mr Moropa’s nominators issued the following statement on his nomination:

"Robert has contributed, passionately as a visionary leader, i.e. UNITRA, UNISA and at the University of Pretoria for 41 years.  He has mentored quite a number of current leaders in the South African LIS, as well as developing the next generation leaders at UP. 

Robert has served the LIS profession in South Africa in various capacities.  He served as the LIASA President from October 2002 to October 2004.  He was also Vice-Chair of SANLiC when it was founded. 

As the Library Director at the University of Pretoria, Mr Moropa is passionate about positioning the library in the University agenda.  In 2017 he lead the development of the strategic plan which made room for junior staff within the organisation to lead strategic projects.  The library had nine strategic projects and a few of these are led by staff who occupy managerial positions.  This affirms his believe that leadership is not only positional but every staff member is able to make a meaningful contribution.  Each of these project leaders were assigned coaches who are part of senior management.  This approach was adopted to mentor new leaders within the organisation and to develop those already in managerial positions. 

Lindiwe Soyizwapi said that when she joined the Department of Library Service at the University of Pretoria in 2012 as a Deputy Director, she was able to integrate easily into the new environment because she was coached by Mr Moropa.  As part of the senior management team within the library, she became more aware of Mr Moropa's visionary leadership of ensuring that the library is a learning organisation.  He is of the view that staff members should have the freedom to try new things, improve their skills as well as propose new services.  This freedom has allowed staff members to come up with solutions when the Library was faced with "frozen posts".  This meant they had to do more with fewer staff.  Our innovation team then developed self-service terminals to assist students to find their way around the library and also to locate materials on the shelves. 

Mr Moropa also drives the team to ensure that we are true to our mission of "redefining academic librarianship".  This has made the library to be the first academic library in South Africa to have a MakerSpace within the library.  This facility has enabled the library to work even closer with faculty at UP.  The library has also contributed to the Fourth Industrial Revolution debates within the university by having a service robot, Libby.  Having Libby is enabling the university to gain better insights on robotics and related debates.  This has also enabled the university ti expose our students to this technology.  This exposure, we believe, will better prepare UP graduates for the ever-changing working environments.  it is with great pleasure that I submit this nomination for Mr Robert Moropa for the Executive Librarian Award".

Lindy Soyizwapi

The Executive Librarian is required to be a leader, a mentor and a coach for the sector.  On this subject, Robert replied:

"There are many definitions of leadership. The one I have held on to since my early days as a leader is the one that views leadership as “influence”. I do not see leadership as a position, rank or title. A good leader is a leader who has a vision and the ability to win the confidence of followers. Organizations will always be confronted with problems, challenges and destabilizing events. Most people in an organization tend to focus on and to be paralyzed by these problems, challenges and events. A leader without a vision does not have the capacity to lead. Such and “leader” will react to immediate challenges and events. A good leader has the ability to create a vision or frame a future that will lift the gaze of his/her follows above the current problems, challenges and events and get them to focus on a bright and desired
future – the kind of future that well be desirable and beneficial to the organization and its environment. The impact such a leader has on his/her team is enormous. Such a leader has the ability to make his/her followers realize that they and their organization are actually bigger than the adverse environment they may find themselves in at that moment. He/she inspires confidence among her/his followers. In such a climate of heightened confidence and inspirations follows are able to think constructively and create solutions they may not have realized that their capable of producing.

A good leader has a foresight to see the need to create future leaders and to work
themselves out of a leadership position by duplicating themselves. This they do through coaching and mentorship. A good leader, therefore has the courage to assist others see the potential of leadership in themselves. They guide, encourage and inspire others to be excellent leaders. They consciously mentor their followers.

The continued effectiveness and success of the LIS profession in SA depends on leaders with the qualities and characteristics mentioned above: leaders with a vision and with a passion to coach and mentor those that come after them"

Robert Moropa

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