Service-learning in LIS education : the case of the University of Natal's Inadi initiative

Fiona Bell


Service-learning involves a dynamic process linking real community priorities, issues and problems with student learning, research and development. This paper outlines service-learning projects in LIS education undertaken in South Africa since 2000, as part of the national Community-Higher-Education-Service Partnerships (CHESP) initiative. It focuses on the service-learning project undertaken at the former University of Natal and will refer briefly to a similar project at the University of the Western Cape. The Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Natal chose the Inadi community, specifically the Emzamweni High School, as the service learning site in this area, as it was both rural and historically disadvantaged. The University of the Western Cape chose sites in the Delft and Belville South areas to work in public libraries.
The paper focuses on the results and experiences of the participatory action research carried out by the Post-Graduate Diploma in Information Studies students in the Inadi community and reflects on some of the opportunities and challenges of service-learning as an arena for research, curriculum reform and community development in South Africa. It will assess the feasibility of incorporating service learning into the LIS curriculum. The research and practice embarked upon in a real-life situation for the students serves to inform both the needs of information provision to the community and the need to build up a body of service-learning research which is unique to the South African context.

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