Internet access and use in reference services in higher education institutions in South Africa

Fatima Darries


This paper is based on part of a survey that investigated the impact of the Internet on reference services. An electronic
survey was conducted using the Web and e-mail to distribute the questionnaire. The target population was the heads of
reference services at large libraries and the directors at smaller libraries of the 36 higher education institutions in South
Africa. The response rate to the questionnaire was 28 (30.4 %); two returned questionnaires were spoilt. The following
results are therefore based on the 26 (28.2%) unspoilt completed questionnaires. These results showed that all libraries
surveyed have Internet access, and all but one provided access to their users. Librarians had access to the Internet for a
longer period than their users. User Internet training tended to be on a one-to-one basis at the point-of-use. The majority
of librarians had attended formal Internet training programmes. While the majority of libraries had web sites, only a small
number of librarians had individual pages that they updated and maintained. The majority of libraries provided electronic
reference via e-mail and the library web site, but these were characterised by low usage. Libraries lacked adequate
computer facilities and, consequently, provided limited Internet access to students. Librarians have integrated the
Internet as an information tool, but have not fully exploited what the Internet offers.


Internet; Web; electronic surveys, reference librarians, academic libraries

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