Knowledge sharing strategies in university libraries of Malawi.
Chipeta, George Theodore.
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This study was carried out to examine the strategies of knowledge sharing in University libraries of Malawi. Four public universities were studied namely: University of Malawi (UNIMA), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Mzuzu University (MZUNI), and Malawi University of Science and technology (MUST). The study addressed the following research questions: (1) What types of knowledge is generated or acquired by university libraries in Malawi? (2) What is the rationale for knowledge creation and sharing by university libraries in Malawi? (3) What mechanisms and infrastructure are used for knowledge sharing in university libraries in Malawi? (4) What are the factors influencing knowledge sharing in university libraries in Malawi? (5) What is the attitude of librarians towards knowledge sharing in university libraries in Malawi? in addition (6) What framework is needed for effective knowledge sharing in university libraries in Malawi? The Social Capital Theory (SCT) (Nahapiet and Ghoshal, 1998) complemented by Ajzen and Fishbein‘s (2000) theory of reasoned action (TRA), and Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) knowledge conversion theory underpinned the study. Pragmatism ontology which supports mixed methods epistemology was used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. A survey within case study research designs and self-administered questionnaires were used. Interviews, observations and document review were used to validate the results from the survey questionnaire. The target population of the study consisted of all library staff (professional and paraprofessional) with a qualification in Library and Information Science (LIS), working in public universities. A census of the entire university library staff population was reached for study. Reliability and validity of instruments were achieved using triangulation, factor analysis; adapting research instruments from previous related studies which surpassed the minimum threshold of 0.70 for Cronbach alpha values; and a reliability test using Cronbach’s alpha (a coefficient of reliability or consistency) which was used to determine how well a set of items measures a single unidimensional latent construct. Quantitative data were analysed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 20.0 to generate descriptive and inferential statistics; while qualitative data were analysed thematically. The study revealed that knowledge generation and acquisition of tacit and explicit type was common in the university libraries. Knowledge generation was due to endless research reports, procedure manual handbooks, circulation statistics, policy documents, curriculum documents, rules and regulations, bibliographies and indexes, workshops and conference proceedings and their reports, emails and memos, and the codification of the same in the case of explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge generation on the other hand, was through staff socialisation, formal and informal interactions such as during tea breaks, and regular staff meetings. The study also found out that the rationale for knowledge generation and acquisition by staff was for their capacity to improve the delivery of library services and innovations. It was also established that staff were happy to share their knowledge with others outside the organisation through paper presentations at conferences and documents. The results indicated that library staff were intrinsically motivated to share their knowledge, suggesting that they were not motivated by organisational rewards for knowledge sharing. However, the said knowledge was not codified. The study recommended that university libraries management should put in place a policy aimed at documenting, codifying and storing in databases tacit and explicit knowledge generated and acquired by staff in university libraries. The study concluded that staff did not use mentoring, improved documentation of existing knowledge, storytelling and Communities of Practice for knowledge sharing. The findings of the study also revealed a presence of Information and Communication Technology infrastructure tools like computers connected to the internet, and fixed phones that were mainly used for internal communication. Despite the presence of such Information and Communication Technology infrastructure, institutions depended on face-to-face communication to enhance social ties and collaboration between and among the workers. The study recommended that top library managers put in place a formal mechanism and Information and Communication Technology infrastructure solely for knowledge sharing. The study found out that there was lack of trust among staff, inflexible structures, budget constraints and lack of policy framework for knowledge management. The findings revealed that lack of knowledge management policies resulted in provision of inadequate budgets for organising knowledge sharing forums. This affected rewarding of staff to motivate them to share knowledge between and among themselves. The study recommended that university libraries management should establish decentralised or horizontal organisational structures and empower co-workers to freely share personal knowledge and concerns, which in turn would enhance trust and openness in organisations thereby promoting active knowledge sharing among employees. The study also recommended an overall Knowledge Management policy that would lead to university management allocating resources for Knowledge management activities. The researcher further recommends a broader study be conducted of all university staff to determine the strategies, practices and challenges of knowledge sharing in universities. The study also recommends a comprehensive study of all private universities as well as public and private organisations, to investigate their knowledge sharing strategies, practices and to compare the findings.