Journal History

A brief history of the South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science (SAJLIS) 

Compiled by Clare M Walker (Honorary Research Fellow (retired), University of the Witwatersrand Library)

Date: 7 June 2014

The South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science, SAJLIS, has, since 2002, (Vol. 68 (1)), been published as the official research journal of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA). LIASA was established in 1997, supported by an overwhelming majority of members of the LIS associations that had accommodated the interests of the South African library and information services (LIS) sector during the apartheid era, pre-1994. In 1998, as a planned consequence, the African Library Association of South Africa (ALASA), and the South African Institute for Librarianship and Information Science (SAILIS) voted to dissolve. 

Although the name has changed slightly at various stages in its existence, the volume numbering of the Journal has been continuous since the first issue of South African Libraries (Vol.1 (1) July 1933): this was the quarterly journal of the South African Library Association. The SALA was founded in 1930 following the 1929 seminal recommendations of two commissioners of the Carnegie Corporation New York after their joint visit to South Africa in 1928-29.  South African Libraries (ISSN 038-240-X) volumes 1-48 (1933-1980) was published by the SALA from 1933 to 1978,  edited by leading South African academic and public librarians appointed by SALA and supported by a small editorial administrative board.    

In the late 1970s strong pressure was exerted internally on the practising profession to move towards a more “scientifically” oriented and research-focused body reflecting professional developments globally towards “information science”. Driven by this, the SALA was reconstituted in 1979 as a professional graduate South African Institute for Librarianship and Information Science (SAILIS). From 1982 (Vol. 49 (1)) the title of South African Libraries changed to the South African Journal for Librarianship and Information Science, widely referred to as SAJLIS, although for a short time it retained the original SAL look and feel. 

In the final volume of this first SAILIS journal, (vol. 51 (3&4), July 1983), Professor RB Zaaiman, editor of South African Libraries since 1980, suggested that between 1980 and 1983 the LIS sector of librarians and information scientists had “crossed a watershed”, essentially from “doing” without always fully understanding the problem or its solution, towards “knowing and understanding” implicitly using a more “scientific” approach. In 1984, SAILIS (the Institute) agreed to move SAJLIS (the Journal) for financial and operational reasons to the Bureau for Scientific Publications (BSP) of the Foundation for Education, Science and Technology, under the auspices of the Council for Scientific Publications, which already managed the publication of a number of South African scientific journals. SAJLIS was aligned with these and renamed the South African Journal of Library and Information Science from Vol. 52 (1) March 1984. 

It remained a quarterly publication, retaining the acronym SAJLIS and the original numbering sequence, but some design and content changes were imposed by the BSP. A “Scientific Editor”, a Reviews Editor and an Editorial Secretary were appointed by SAILIS and the Editorial Committee comprised senior South African LIS professionals. Each issue carried Instructions to Authors and the SAJLIS Editorial policy that “contributions should reflect a scientific investigation of the subjects concerned”, but the Bureau allowed no Editorial page as such. SAJLIS remained a publication in the BSP stable from the publication of Volume 52 (1) March 1984 until the disestablishment of SAILIS in 1998. A “South African Library and Information (SALI) Trust” was then formed to manage the considerable and complex assets of SAILIS (much of which went to LIASA as “seed money”) and SAJLIS Volume 66 (3&4) stated that it was published “in collaboration with the SALI Trust”. During this transitional period, 1998-2001, there was a hiatus in the frequency of publication: continuity of annual numbering (volume 67) was temporarily interrupted. 

LIASA in the meanwhile consolidated its own structures and directions and in 2001 decided to accommodate a scholarly publication in addition to its popular newsletter. The SALI Trust transferred responsibility for SAJLIS to LIASA from Volume 68 (1) 2002. Once again continuity was preserved, together with the acronym SAJLIS, with a slight but significant change in title and a new ISSN. The South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science (ISSN 0256-8861), the official journal of the Association, is now published twice a year. 

In the restored Editorial of the first LIASA issue of 2002 the new Editor-in- Chief, Professor DN Ocholla, recorded that LIASA had decided that SAJLIS should publish material largely about the South African LIS sector, and that about 75% of this should comprise research-oriented peer-refereed articles. Since 2002 SAJLIS has had three editors-in-chief, all senior academic LIS professionals, with a Journal Management Team and an extensive, globally representative international Editorial Advisory Board of distinguished information scholars and professionals. The Editor-in-Chief and JMT serve for fixed maximum terms of office. 

In 2011 LIASA signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and the Humanities and as a mark of its commitment to the open access movement took the decision to publish SAJLIS using open source software (OJS – Open Journal Systems) from 2012 onwards. All issues of the LIASA SAJLIS from 2002 onwards have been digitised and are available online. 


From its first volume, SALA and then SAJLIS has been indexed internally, locally and in international bibliographical and indexing services. During the 1970s cover information indicates that South African Libraries was indexed in Library Literature, Library Science Abstracts (later Library and Information Science Abstracts) and the Index to South African Periodicals (ISAP). This indexing extended in the 1980s to include INSPEC (later INSPEC-Computer and Control Abstracts); by 1997 to include Academic Abstracts, Academic Search, Current Awareness Bulletin IBZ+IBR, Internet Access BUBL, Masterfile, South African Studies and by 2003 including Information Science and Technical Abstracts (ISTA).