Public librarians and information literacy education : views from Mpumalanga Province

  • Genevieve Onyancha Department of Library & Information Science, University of the Western Cape
Keywords: Information literacy education, Public librarians, South Africa, Mpumalanga Province


The paper reports on one part of a questionnaire / interview survey of 57 public librarians, conducted in Mpumalanga Province in 2004 to assess the readiness of public libraries for information literacy education - specifically, given the shortage of school libraries, that of their school learner users. It analyses the data gathered in a group of open-ended and Likert-scale questions that probe staff perceptions - in the belief that these subjective factors are crucial to sustainable programmes. The study attests to the pressures on South African public librarians, who feel unprepared for a teaching role. Three themes are explored: respondents' understanding of the concepts of information literacy; respondents' own information literacy; and their views on the role of public libraries in information literacy education. Restricted conceptions of information literacy are found to limit the role of public libraries in the learning process of information literacy, with the prevailing notion of service being the 'giving' and 'fetching' of information on demand. The study finds ambivalence towards an enhanced educational role for public libraries - caused by contradictions between the heavy daily demands of learners and beliefs about the proper role of a public library.
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