Relational-based Resilience of a Public University: A Case study on Losing a Library by Mzuzu University in Malawi

Keywords: Resilient library, Organisational resilience, Framework of proactive organisational resilience, Relational-based resilience


Following the destruction of the university library by fire in 2015, this retrospective study explores the nature of the capabilities of organisational resilience exhibited by Mzuzu University (Mzuni) - as perceived by Heads of Departments (HoDs) in the university. Limited research has focused on what resilient university libraries actually do and how organisational resilience is actually achieved in practice. Eight HoDs, selected using stratified random sampling, were interviewed and data analyzed using content analysis.Results reveal that the nature of organisational resilience – quick restoration of library services with little disturbance to the academic calendar – exhibited by Mzuni lacked a proactive approach. Predominantly, Mzuni relied on unexpected, external and relational-based capabilities to improvise library services. An interplay of various organisational, individual and relational capabilities was cardinal in the improvisation of library services. However, ambidextrous structure, culture and leadership, and the pursuit of systemic resilience are fundamental if Mzuni is to be truly resilient.The integrative framework of proactive organisational resilience proposed in this study is insightful for librarians, leaders of public universities and HR practitioners to build prospectively the composite capability of organisational resilience for the university library before an adversity occurs. 


Download data is not yet available.


Bhamra, R., Dani, S and Burnard, K. 2011. Resilience: The Concept, a Literature Review and Future Directions. International Journal of Production Research, 49(18): 5375-5393.

Bodenheimer, L. 2018. Leadership Reflection: Resiliency in Library. Journal of Library Administration, 58(4): 364-374.

Boreckci, D.Y., Rofcanin, Y. and Gurbuz, H. 2015. Organizational resilience and relational dynamics in triadic networks: a multiple case analysis. International Journal of Production Research, 53(22): 6839-6867.

Burnard, K. and Bhamra, R. 2011. Organizational resilience: development of a conceptual framework for organizational responses. International Journal of Production Research, 49(18): 5581-5599.

Canney, J.W.2012. What Makes a Higher Education Institution Resilient: An Interpretive Case Study. PhD Dissertation, University of St. Thomas, School of Education, Minnesota. Education Doctoral Dissertations in Organization Development. [Online]. (19 November 2017).

Chavula,J.2015. Fire guts Mzuni library. The Nation. [Online]. (19 December 2015).

Chawinga, W.D. and Zozie, P.A. 2016. Increasing Access to Higher Education Through Open and Distance Learning: Empirical Findings From Mzuzu University, Malawi. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(4):1-20.

Connelly, E. B., Allen, C. R., Hatfield, K., Palma-Oliveira, J. M. Woods, D. D. and Linkov, I. 2017. Features of resilience. Environment Systems and Decisions, 37(1): 46–50. DOI 10.1007/s10669-017-9634-9

Coutu, D.L. 2002. How resilience works. Harvard Business Review, 80 (5): 46–56.

Denyer, D. 2017. Organisational Resilience: A summary of academic evidence, business insights and new thinking. BSI and Cranfield School of Management. [Online]. (10 November 2018).

Duchek, S. 2019. Organizational resilience: a capability-based conceptualization. Business Research, 1-32. [Online]. (20 February 2019).

Giustiniano, L., Clegg, S.R., Cunha, M.P. and Rego, A. 2018. Introduction to Theories of Organisational Resilience, Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Hayes, J. 2016. Rebuilding a Malawian Library after disaster. Library Connect. [Online]. (25 February 2019).

Houlihan,D. and Young, A. 2018. The "4 Rs" of Comprehensive Emergency Management. Emergency Management Consultancy. [Online]. (20 March 2019).

Leja, K. and Nagucka, E. 2013. Creative destruction of the university.GUT FME Working Paper SeriesA, No. 14/2013(14).Gdansk (Poland): Gdansk University of Technology, Faculty of Management and Economics.

Lengnick-Hall, C.A., Beck,T.A. and Lengnick-Hall, M.L. 2011. Developing a capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management. Human Resource Management Review, 21: 243–255.

Lucy, D. and Shepherd, C. 2018. Organisational Resilience: Developing change-readiness.Roffey Park Institute, UK. [Online]. (11 December 2018).

Manfield, R.C. 2016. Organizational Resilience: A Dynamic Capabilities Approach, A PhD thesis, University of Queensland Business School, The University of Queensland, Australia. [Online]. (20 November 2018).

McManus, S., Seville, E., Brunsdon, D. and Vargo, J. 2007. Resilient Management: A framework for Assessing and Improving the Resilience of Organizations. Resilient Organizations Programme, New Zealand.

Mushemeza, E.D. 2016. Opportunities and Challenges of Academic Staff in Higher Education in Africa. International Journal of Higher Education, 5(3): 236-246.

Mzuzu University. 2015. Annual report 2013/2014. Malawi, Mzuzu: Mzuzu University.

Probst, G., Raisch, S. and Tushman, L.M. 2011. Ambidextrous leadership: Emerging challenges for business and HR leaders. Organizational Dynamics, 40: 326—334.

Purvis, L., Spall, S., Naim, M. and Spiegler, V. 2016. Developing a resilient supply chain strategy during ‘boom’ and ‘bust.’ Production Planning & Control, 27:7-8, 579-590.

Raju, R., Schoombee, L. and Raju, R. 2013. Research support through the lens of transformation in academic libraries with reference to the case of Stellenbosch University Libraries. South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science, 79 (2): 27-38.

Reinmoeller, P. and Baardwijk, C. 2005. The Link Between Diversity and Resilience. MIT Sloan Management Review, 26(4): 61-65.

Schein, E.H. 2010. Organization culture and leadership: A dynamic view. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sutcliffe, M. and Vogus, T.J. 2003. Organizing for resilience. In Cameron, K.S., Dutton, J.E. and Quinn, R.E. (eds), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline.San Francisco: Berrett-Kehler.

Taleb, N.S.(2010). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: On Robustness and Fragility (2nd ed). New York: Random House.

Teixeira, E.O. and Werther, W Jr. 2013. Resilience: Continuous renewal of competitive advantages, Business Horizon, 56(3): 333-342.

The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2015. Organisational resilience: Building an enduring enterprise, British Standards Institute, London. [Online]. (31 March 2019).

Tierney, K. and Bruneau, M. 2007. Conceptualizing and Measuring Resilience A Key to Disaster Loss Reduction. TR News, 250 (250):14-17.

Van der Merwe, S. E., Biggs, R. and Prosier, R.2018. A framework for conceptualizing and assessing the resilience of essential services produced by socio-technical systems. Ecology and Society 23(2):12.[Online]. (30 January 2019).

Vårheim, A. 2016. A Note on Resilience Perspectives in Public Library Research: Paths Towards Research Agendas, The University of Akron Proceedings from the Document Academy:3(2) [Online]. (12 January 2019).

Research Articles