An analysis of user education programmes in selected University libraries in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Idoniboye-Obu, Tamunotonye Ibimina.
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This study presents the results of the survey research on the topic: An analysis of user education programmes in selected university libraries in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The study was conducted in four university libraries in KwaZulu-Natal. They are: Durban University of Technology (DUT); Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT); University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and University of Zululand (UNIZULU). Three of the four institutions under study are multi-campus institutions which operate academic libraries for the various programmes on their campuses. The conceptual frameworks/principal theories that informed the study were: the draft guidelines on information literacy by the Committee for Higher Education Librarians in South Africa (CHELSA) (Esterhuizen and Kuhn 2010); and the guidelines for instruction programmes in academic libraries approved by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) of 2011; and the information literacy competency standards for higher education approved by the American Association for Higher Education 1999. These are guidelines that help to direct service providers while administering UEPs to their users in the libraries. The theories were the information search process (ISP) model which was developed by Kuhlthau in the 1980s and 1990s and has been used to examine theoretical concepts within the library and information science discipline, and the relational model of information literacy developed by Bruce in 1997. The study used a mixed method approach for data collection, adopting both qualitative and quantitative methods. Since the population was small, it carried out a census of all population elements. The population comprised two main cohorts: subject librarians and library management staff. The main instrument for the collection of quantitative data was a self-administered questionnaire which was administered to the subject librarians (subject librarians and training librarians). The second cohort comprised university librarians/directors, campus/branch librarians, principal librarians and an information service manager/manager academic services. This cohort was interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule. The quantitative data was coded manually and analysed with the help of SPSS software Version 23.0 and used to produce charts, frequency tables and cross tabulations where necessary. The qualitative data was analysed using thematic content analysis. Both instruments were pretested to determine reliability and validity. The pretesting of both instruments involved twelve (12) librarians working in both South Africa and Nigeria. Five of the pre-test participants were lecturers; two were post-doctoral fellows in the same Information Studies discipline in the School of Social Sciences of the University of KwaZulu-Natal; and the other five were librarians working in different universities in Nigeria but who at the time of the study were doctoral students in the Library and Information Studies in the School of Social Sciences of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus. The pretest was designed to ensure there was clarity of questions and to eliminate any in the research instrument. The response rate for subject librarians was 46 out of 49 respondents (93.8%) while that for library management staff was 70% (See Table 5.1). The study found out that all four university libraries operate formal user education programmes (UEPs) although the concept of formal UEPs was interpreted differently by some of the subject librarians who sought to interpret it as credit bearing. It was also revealed that out of the four university libraries only one library operated its UEPs on the basis of a policy document according to the interview responses; all the others said there was no separate policy for the library aside from the university’s one. In other words, the university policy document formed the basis of UEPs. This implies a possible lack of adherence to national and international library standards. Another finding of the study was that all four university libraries deliver similar content in their UEPs and UEPs are for all categories of users of the library ranging from under-graduate to academic staff. It was also revealed that UEPs were benchmarked against their institutions’ standards and goals before consideration of local or international library standards like those of LIASA and ACRL outside their institutions. The study also revealed that UEPs in all four university libraries were evaluated by various means (as per section 5.4.20, Table 5.9). The findings of the study further revealed that in all four university libraries, with regards to population of staff in terms of gender, there were more females than males (as par section 5.2.3 and section 5.5.1, Table 5.15). In terms of originality, the study was conducted in four university libraries in KwaZulu-Natal which has not been researched before. The study discovered that user education is still regarded as a critical activity by libraries and it is the foundation upon which users are able to build information knowledge and skills to be able to effectively use all the resources and facilities provided by the library. Based on the findings, the following recommendations were made: for UEPs to be relevant in this 21st century, constant evaluation is needed to upgrade its value to benefit users; there should be separate UEPs for postgraduates and undergraduates; there be designated subject librarians for UEPs in order to effectively deliver the programmes to users. Another recommendation from the study is that a policy document be developed in all university libraries to guide the development and execution of the UEPs to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved when the programmes are evaluated. It is also recommended that libraries do more to market and advertise UEPs to enable students entering into higher institutions to benefit from them by being able to use all resources and facilities in the library to the fullest.