27 July 2020
Story Nonsindiso Qwabe
Photo Charl Devenish
She is affectionately called ‘Tannie Ronet’ by the dozens of students coming her way, and Faculty of Education librarian Ronet Vrey would not have it any other way. While Vrey loves to remain behind the scenes, her passion for students makes her a big hit with every student crossing her path at the University of the Free State Library and Information Services on the Bloemfontein Campus.
Vrey has been a librarian for as long as she can remember; a path she says was inspired by her educator mother. But instead of standing in front of a class, she gets to invest in students' academic journeys by being a helping hand in times of need. She is a UFS alumna, having graduated in 1988 with a degree in Library and Information Sciences, specialising in Education, Library Services, and Technology.
"I was interested in library information services because back then, we were exploring the use of computers and moving in the direction of technology. Little did we know about digitisation and curation that would follow."
In 2005, she started working as librarian for the Faculty of the Humanities, before working jointly for the Faculties of the Humanities and Education. Since 2011, she has focused solely on the Faculty of Education, serving as the link between the library and the faculty. "I am supposed to focus only on students from the first year to honours level, but because of the relationships built there, many students often choose to stay with me. When they come to me for help, I don't say no," she says.
Information literacy a lifelong skill
Vrey shares the love for her job with her fellow librarians from other faculties. In 2019, the group presented a paper on embedded librarianship at the International Conference on Information Literacy (ICIL). She said they are in the process of having their paper published. "We want to be embedded in faculties in order to make students at the UFS information literate. If we can teach students information literacy skills to help themselves, we will have lifelong learners who can develop all the time, and you would have established a community of lifelong learners," she said.
One student who has benefited from Vrey's dedication and passion for students, is Dr Norma Lehasa, who obtained her PhD in 2019 after a seven-year journey due to ill health.
Vrey known as beacon of hope
Lehasa met Vrey in 2016, and says she owes her success to the likes of Vrey. Lehasa said each year when students graduate, it is people like Vrey who are supporting them behind the scenes to reach their goals.
"My wonderful librarian, Ronet, made me focus and never give up. She used to go the extra mile for me, even teaching me how to use the resources to search for literature myself. The outcome of me being a Doctor of Philosophy today is because of people like Ronet. People like her need to be recognised for the good work that they do," Lehasa said.
Lehasa's PhD topic was: An Adult Learning Perspective on Professional Development in the Human Resources Department of the Free State Premier.