Information Access in High School Libraries in the Limpopo Province, South Africa.
The Library NEWS | Journal | Information access in high school libraries in the Limpopo Province, South Africa.
By: Samuel Maredi Mojapelo, Luyanda Dube
Researchers agree that information resources are imperative for curriculum support. Equitable access to information resources by teachers and learners is absolutely essential to enable them to execute their curriculum-related tasks. However, only a few schools have functional libraries in South Africa making accessibility to the information resources a major challenge to the majority of the teachers and learners. Where school libraries are inadequate, other information services become significant. The purpose of this study was to investigate information access by teachers and learners in high schools in the Limpopo province. The study was largely quantitative blended with triangulation of both quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection. Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect quantitative data from the principals and teacher-librarians whilst an interview schedule was used to collect qualitative data from the education officials. The findings established that access to information by teachers and learners is a daunting challenge in the majority of the schools. The study recommends that the National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services document (2012) be converted into a legislated school library policy to ensure functionality of the different school library models to improve information access for curriculum support.
KEYWORDS: school libraries, information access, library-based resources, information services, Limpopo Province.
1. Introduction and background to the study
A vibrant, vigorous and dynamic school library is indispensable in modern education in order to support curriculum obligations. The school library is intended to be an information- seeking and learning environment, which provides up-to-date information that will keep teachers and learners abreast of new developments (Manjunatha 2003; Meyers, Nathan, & Saxton 2007). School libraries are repositories of information resources and play an important role in supporting learners with curriculum-related tasks and activities such as homework, assignments and research projects. It is not enough that a library houses information resources; what is important is that these resources are physically and intellectually accessible to those who need them (Bernard & Dulle 2014; Ugah 2007). Libraries in general have a responsibility to facilitate access to and use of information resources and services.
A library’s usefulness and success depends upon the availability, accessibility and usability of its information resources. Information access refers to the strategies, modes or an entire range of possibilities used to make information and information services available to users (Manjunatha 2003).
In the past, print resources dominated the information landscape, making the process of accessing information a relatively simple process of locating and extracting the required information. With the emergence of information technologies predominant in the knowledge economy, the scene has changed, offering a lot of possibilities for accessing various types and formats of local and virtual information and information services.
In South Africa, the school library system is underdeveloped: only 7.2% of schools have functional school libraries (The National Education Infrastructure Management System [NEIMS] 2011; Nkondo et al. 2014). According to the Limpopo province’s annual survey (Limpopo 2012), the province has 1,437 public high schools distributed in both urban and rural communities. However, only 2.3% of the schools have well-resourced and functional school libraries (Nassimbeni & Desmond 2011; NEIMS 2011; Nkondo et al. 2014).
As in other provinces, the majority of schools with well-functioning school libraries are historically advantaged (so-called Model C schools) in historically advantaged affluent communities, whilst, in historically disadvantaged and marginalised communities, schools libraries are virtually non-existent (Mojapelo 2008).
The former Model C schools are those which were earmarked for ‘non-blacks’ during the apartheid era. As stated by Hart (2013:49), the “so- called ex-Model C suburban schools … are able to supplement their government budgets by levying extra fees from their largely middle-class parent bodies”. Unfortunately, this state of affairs widens the already-existing divide between the “haves and have nots” which goes against the grain of the South African constitution that upholds equal rights for all. Dubazana and Hoskins (2011) affirm that there are enormous disparities between these schools and the provision of resources. However, the Library and Information Services (LIS) Transformation Charter (Nkondo et al. 2014:47) states that:
Good school LIS are essential to the transformation of the South African education system, which aims to provide quality schools for all South African learners. Apartheid’s Bantu education calculatedly under-resourced the schools designated for black learners. If school libraries are deemed to be important for quality learning, then the principles of redress and equity enshrined in the South African Constitution and educational legislation mean that ways must be found to provide them. The daunting backlogs in provision mean that innovative models of service and delivery will be required. It is unrealistic to expect all 25,000 schools to be provided overnight with its own library facility. Any new models will, however, have to convince those who believe that only a centralised library in every school will fulfill the criteria of redress and equity.