Friday, 5 June 2015

In memoriam: Felix Ubogu a great Librarian

Felix Ubogu, the University Librarian at the University of Witwatersrand has sadly passed away.

I have just returned from an excellent ICADLA conference in Ghana. Felix was missed by all there and now we know his illness was worse than many of us thought. May he rest in peace.

My thoughts go out to his family and many friends - may they find the energy, light and love to carry on after such a hard blow.

Felix was a consummate librarian - he was both a traditionalist and revolutionary at the same time. His influence stretched far beyond the boundaries of Witswatersrand and his loss will be felt especially hard by colleagues in Africa but also the rest of the world. For me, he showed many the way to bridge the gap between being a good custodian of a collection and reaching out to a community, often by digital means, to extend the reach of the library and its collections.

His vision, leadership and support for the International Conference of African Digital Libraries and Archives (ICADLA) have been essential for the development of this important conference. Without his work, dating back to the first one in 2009 (held at the United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), ICADLA would have faltered on a number of occasions as challenges presented themselves. A conference may seem a small thing, but ICADLA is more than this - it is a forum for pan-African collaboration, capacity building and strategic action for digital libraries and archives.

He was always warm and welcoming to me and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him. I never knew his personal life, we were not friends. But he made a real professional impact and thus the consequent loss to our community is great.

I hope those he inspired and mentored will be able to continue his legacy for the next generation of African librarians.

Below I have copied the announcement of Felix's passing from the Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal. As other memories become known let me know and I will include them here.


Dear Colleagues

It is with great sadness that the University learnt of the passing of Mr Felix Ubogu, the University’s Librarian yesterday. Mr Ubogu passed away after a prolonged illness and will be sorely missed by his colleagues at Wits with whom he has built close relationships in the last 15 years.

Mr Ubogu joined Wits in 2000 from Rhodes University, where he served as its chief librarian.

He will be remembered for spearheading the digitisation of university libraries and for initiating the move towards digitising theses, with the aim of spreading African scholarship across the globe. In recognition of him using the e-environment to advance scholarship, Mr Ubogu was named the recipient of the Electronic Theses and Dissertation (ETD) Leadership Award in 2011.

Mr Ubogu advocated the benefits of ETD which ultimately led to the formation of the National Electronic Theses and Dissertations project funded by the National Research Foundation. He chaired the Advisory Committee of the Database of African Theses and Dissertations Pilot Project from July 2000 to February 2005. From 2003 to 2004 he served as the Project Manager of a UNESCO pilot project to improve the management of and access to theses and dissertations.

He has hosted several international conferences and seminars on ETD and related topics. In 2009 he was one of the organisers of the First International Conference on African Digital Libraries and Archives. He has served on the Board of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations, the Editorial Board of the African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science, and has also been a member of the Board of the South African Library for the Blind.

Mr Ubogu was also known for campaigning for the use of multimedia in dissertations and for expanding the University’s electronic databases, research analysis tools and software acquisitions.

Felix is survived by his wife and three children. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his family, colleagues and friends, during this difficult period. The University will announce further details about his funeral and memorial service after consultation with his family.

Prof. Adam Habib
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
5 June 2015

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