Towards functional school libraries: supporting library assistants in under-resourced schools through a university-community-school partnership

Patti Silbert, Connie Bitso


This article reports on an ongoing study on building a collaborative support model for library assistants in a group of schools in the Western Cape township of Khayelitsha through a university-community-school partnership. The Cascading Support Model was conceptualised as a community of practice between the University of Cape Town’s Schools Improvement Initiative, UCT’s Library and Information Studies Centre, The Bookery and a group of schools in Khayelitsha. Given the complexity of challenges facing schools in impoverished communities, this collaborative model is presented as a strategy to support library assistants in creating functional school libraries. Using a qualitative, interpretive approach, the study employs an ethnographic research method to describe the collaborative support model offered through the community of practice. The results show that universities are well positioned through their partnership with community organisations and schools to help create models of support through which expertise can be harnessed and disseminated. As a support strategy for library assistants, the Cascading Support Model represents a shift from conventional mentoring models towards a wider community of practice.


School libraries; communities of practice; university-community-school partnerships

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