Equal Education

WHAT DO TEACHERS REALLY THINK OF LIBRARIES? SOME INSIGHTS FROM A STUDY OF SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES IN A SMALL SOUTH AFRICAN TOWN

Thursday, 25 November 2010

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Excerpt

 

The premise of the study is that, in a country where less than 20% of schools have functional libraries (South Africa. Department of Education, 1999; Bot, 2005) and where there is a new curriculum that, according to widespread consensus, emphasises resource-based enquiry learning, public libraries might well have to take on a more active role in information literacy education than they might be expected to in countries with better developed school library structures. My earlier research, which involved interviews in one week with over 800 pupils in two public library branches in a disadvantaged township in Cape Town, found most of them to be in the library to “do a project”, with 78% claiming never to use any other library and only 3% reporting access to a school library in the course of their current project (Hart, 2003).

 

  • However, there are questions over the capacity of South African public libraries for information literacy education, for example:
  • How knowledgeable are public librarians about information literacy and about contemporary approaches to information literacy education? 
  • What kind of programmes are in place?  
  • Do public librarians want to take up a role in the information literacy education of school going youth  – at a time when they are experiencing severe budget cuts (Lor, 1999; Hooper & Hooper, 2000)? 
  • Are librarians able to be teachers?  
  • Do public libraries have adequate resources to take on this new role? 
  • Do they have the connections with schools that an enhanced role in information literacy education implies? Is there recognition amongst public library staff and educators in schools that information literacy education is a “shared endeavour” (Bundy, 2002)?  

This paper makes no attempt to provide a rigorous account of the research project – hopefully the completed dissertation will do that. Its purpose is to provide a glimpse of the study and to take the opportunity to share some of my findings. The focus in the first part is on public librarians’ conceptions of their role in information literacy education; it then moves to the second phase of the study with a focus on educators’ conceptions of the educational role of the public library. The suggestion is that, paradoxically, shared conceptions contribute to a gulf between the two sectors, which needs to be bridged if the needs of school learners are to be met.  

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