This study examines if public libraries in a province in South Africa are ready to assume an enhanced responsibility for information literacy education, specifically that of students, and, if so, what inhibiting and facilitating factors might exist. The public libraries in the rural province of Mpumalanga provide the case site. “Readiness”, at one level, refers to physical capacity and, on a second level, to more subjective attributes such as staff attitudes and beliefs. The paper reports on the first phase of the study – in which both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered by means of a questionnaire/interview survey of 57 public librarians in 46 sites. The study finds that Mpumalanga public libraries are indeed heavily engaged in serving school learners. Shortcomings in certain physical facilities, such as the lack of space and absence of retrieval tools, are inhibiting factors with the heritage of apartheid still impacting on the availability of and quality of service. The low level of professional education of public library staff is found to impede innovation in library programming. The prevailing information literacy education model largely comprises one-to-one support, although there is a fair amount of source-based group library orientation. Moving towards information literacy education will depend on a shift in conceptions of the educational role of public libraries. In the absence of recognition of their curricular role by public library authorities and educators, many public librarians are not sure that their services to school learners are legitimate. There is, however, dawning recognition that present approaches are not meeting the needs of school learners and that more effective communication with educators is required. This recognition comes from public librarians' frustrating encounters with learners rather than from insight into information literacy education theory and experience. The fundamental conclusion is that sustainable information literacy education in public libraries will depend on more dynamic leadership and on a vision of a new model of public library.
The article describes an interpretive case study of a group of six dual-use school community libraries in one remote region of South Africa. Its focus is rather more on the libraries as school libraries than public libraries. The recent government sponsored LIS Transformation Charter has placed a spotlight on the backlogs in school and public library provision. The case study, conducted in April 2009, investigates if dual or joint use libraries might help fill gaps and, if so, under what conditions. The article describes the background, research questions, methodology, site and some of the findings. The study highlights the relationships among role-players, the realities of dualuse functioning and the complex issue of librarian identity. The study concludes that, although many of the international criteria for dual-use libraries are not met, the six libraries do provide a crucial service for their schools and other schools in the surrounding areas. And they offer a tantalising picture of the possibilities of dual-use for rural information services. The article suggests that, with more dynamic leadership, these possibilities could be fulfilled.
This article emanates from the independent evaluation of a South African library leadership education programme, run by the Centre for African Library Leadership (CALL). The programme’s rationale lies in the drive to transform South African librarianship in the face of a range of challenges - some of them inherited from the apartheid past, others shared with libraries throughout the world. The Carnegie Corporation-sponsored programme aimed at developing leadership insights and qualities in current and potential future library managers. The article reports on the evaluative methodology, which comprised a questionnaire survey of all course alumni, interviews of CALL managers, and five sets of focus group interviews with course alumni and alumni of the followup Train-the-Trainer courses. The very positive results of the questionnaire survey are described and analysed, and key themes and comments emerging from several openended questions are discussed. Triangulation is provided by in-depth comments from the five focus groups, and in the process important themes are uncovered. The distinctive strengths of the programme were found to be its sensitivity to the South African context and its “inside-out” approach to leadership training. In most aspects the programme was found to be very successful, although there was uncertainty about its further continuance and the roles of the Train-the-Trainer alumni. The evaluation suggests that the CALL programme should serve as a model for transformative leadership education in South Africa and beyond. Recommendations include continuation of such projects to a wider set of libraries and their staff, with further use of the experiential approach to training, theory grounded in hands-on practice, and emphasis on self-development and self-awareness. However, the full potential of such programmes can only be realised if senior library management buys in to the values of the programme, and is engaged in implementation plans.