The South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) is tasked with ensuring the industry has access to cutting-edge research, information and reports – a task that falls to the research institute’s newly appointed Knowledge Manager, Tazleen January.
The 24-year-old Port Elizabeth BCom Law graduate is tasked with capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using the knowledge generated by the SACO. January will also profile the growing catalogue of information housed in the SACO Library and Documentation Centre, which is also available online.
“Besides making sure that the information we have and generate is disseminated to the best of our ability, I also handle our website updates and online library. I also put my legal skills to work by checking copyright and intellectual property laws for material submitted to the library or website,” says January.
SACO CEO, Prof. Richard Haines, says the Library and Documentation Centre is critical to the SACO’s operations. “The Library and Documentation Centre is one of the SACO’s centrepieces. We trade in information, so a constantly expanding library that is representative of the industry’s development is critical to our own,” he says.
This Library and Documentation Centre will become a holistic repository of knowledge, information and evidence concerning the content, structure and dynamics of the creative and cultural industry.
“A physical library is important, but we are in the age of digitisation, so data management has a new dimension and a wider reach – and thus requires stronger management skills. Tazleen has this complex job in hand and is focused on ensuring updates are regular, insightful and accessible to the industry and the wider public,” Haines says.
A functional library that appropriately catalogues the vast industry and sector knowledge base is among the SACO’s core mandates from the Department of Arts & Culture. “This is a big challenge, but we are putting processes in place to ensure material is relevant and most importantly, accessed and used.”
Haines says that through her new role, January will be managing a huge amount of information; “She is responsible for more than just running the Library and Documentation Centre, she is also responsible for linking the SACO’s resources to the university libraries at Nelson Mandela University, Fort Hare and Rhodes University.”
January says her past position at the Refugee Rights Centre has equipped her with a lot of experience when it comes to dealing with problems efficiently. “I have gained extensive knowledge about business management, my major, and I also have an extra edge because I have the legal background. So, I am able to work on both ends of the spectrum and deal with any legalities.”
Haines says her multi-disciplinary approach is exceptionally beneficial; “Tazleen is employing a variety of skills in this role, and by forging new skills in the workplace she has successfully begun co-coordinating her various functions.”
January adds that the learning curve is in swing. “Each day that goes by I am involved in something new and this in itself leads to new challenges and learning how to do new things. This is a great project and I am very excited about turning the SACO into a word-class facility for anyone looking for information about the arts, culture and heritage sectors in South Africa – achieving this is my ultimate goal,” she says.
Haines explains that developing young professionals is integral to the SACO’s mandate. “The SACO takes skills development very seriously. By training talent for the future we are not only fostering skills, but we also provide growth opportunities within the organisation and the broader industry.”