LIS qualifications in an African context : considerations from a South African study

Jaya Raju


It is important for countries in Africa to blaze their own unique paths in terms of adopting LIS qualification models that would be realistic and relevant to the local African context and, importantly, add value to their library and information services which have a crucial role to play in growth and development. As a contribution to this end, a research project is currently being undertaken in South Africa where, as part of the project, work environments in other disciplines such as journalism, health care and engineering are being empirically investigated and compared with LIS services in terms of job functions and higher education qualification types required to fulfill these job functions. The intention is to see if perhaps there are any innovations, lessons or best practices that the LIS profession can draw from these disciplines in terms of staff structures in LIS services, job functions of incumbents, and qualification requirements defining these structures and functions. The purpose of this paper is to report on some of the preliminary findings in an initial and novel comparison involving public, academic and special libraries, and engineering firms, newspaper houses and health care services in an African city. The findings, in the main, reveal that other disciplines seem to embrace vocational institutions, such as universities of technology, in the work place much more than the LIS work environment. The paper concludes that while there are significant aspects of western developed qualification models that continue to be useful in developing contexts, LIS qualification models in these contexts do not necessarily have to travel the same route as done in the West. The development of such qualification models should be guided by African realities. The paper recommends the need to draw lessons from work place practices in other disciplines and from innovative work place behavior within the LIS discipline evident in the preliminary findings presented in this paper, and more fully utilize qualification products from non traditional university institutions which often are the only tertiary level institutions many African school leavers are able to access. At the same time qualification models should afford articulation means that provide opportunities for further education and development of these individuals.


LIS education-Africa; LIS education-South Africa; LIS services-Africa; LIS services-South Africa

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