LIS Schools in South Africa, like in many other parts of the world, are part of a triangular relationship involving LIS teaching departments, universities and the library and information services profession. This relationship is profoundly affected by a rapidly evolving information and technology environment as well as higher education restructuring globally. In a context of ‘diffusion and diversity’ arising from this relationship, this paper takes a look at LIS Schools in South Africa to ascertain whether they have succumbed to the pressures and constraints brought about by a technologically driven information environment and the so called efficiency models of universities. Alternatively, have they used these pressures as challenges to catalyse a paradigm shift from a discipline that evolved largely on a pragmatic basis to one grounded in epistemology and research methodologies providing it with the capacity to embrace rapidly evolving trends in the generation, use and transfer of information in the ICT age? A qualitative approach, involving a cursory survey of LIS School Heads in South Africa analysed against conceptual understandings gleaned from relevant literature, frames the inquiry attempting to address these critical questions. The paper outlines the pressures of the triangular relationship that frames the existence and inherent difficulties of the LIS School and points out that the LIS Schools surveyed, each in their own way within their institutional contexts, have managed thus far to survive their challenges - albeit this being no guarantee of continued survival. In terms of whether these LIS Schools have used these pressures as challenges to catalyse a paradigm shift in their conceptualisation of LIS education, the limited data from the cursory survey of LIS School Heads suggests that some LIS Schools may have been engaging more with such a paradigm shift than others. The paper concludes that LIS Schools, in South Africa or elsewhere, need to dig deeply and creatively into their epistemological resources and use the interdisciplinary nature of the LIS discipline to sustain their academic projects in a highly competitive and arduous environment. The paper suggests a followup to the cursory survey of LIS Schools in South Africa to ‘drill down’ into individual institutional dynamics to mine primary data for studies towards addressing LIS School challenges emanating from the changing environments within which they are located.
© 2013 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.