Institutional repositories as platforms for open access in South African universities : the case of University of KwaZulu-Natal.
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For a long time, academic libraries struggled to provide access to scholarly literature, including that which was produced by their own academic community due to paywalls. However, with the growth of internet technology that enables faster and free dissemination of information, universities are embracing institutional repositories (IR) because they are an economic means of sharing scholarship worldwide. This study examined the development, and extent of use of the repository by academics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN), so that strategies to improve usage could be recommended. This investigation grew after the realisation that access to scholarly literature has particularly been a major obstacle in Africa and the developing countries mainly because of tight library budgets. As repositories promote open access (OA) to scholarly literature within the global research community, it is viewed as Africa’s solution to improved access to scholarly communication. Informed by the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model, this study employed the mixed method paradigm, where quantitative data was collected from academics and qualitative data from interviews. Documents were reviewed to corroborate field data. The findings revealed that the repository has consistently been growing in terms of size and diversity. The signing of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in 2012, the appointment of the IR Librarian in 2014 to manage IR duties, the draft OA policy, ongoing OA marketing and promotion activities and the availability of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure were found as positive developments on the growth of the repository. Extent of use of the repository by academics was measured using UTAUT variables: performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence and facilitating conditions. Findings revealed that most academics believed that using the IR would benefit them but many of them had little to no knowledge about the university’s IR and their role in developing it. There was a general lack of skills amongst academics on self-archiving. A majority of academics believed that it would be easy for them to use the repository, especially if high profile researchers in the field, fellow academics, the university and research funders were positively influencing them to use the repository. Findings on ICT infrastructure necessary to support self-archiving, showed that UKZN had adequate infrastructure in place but academics believed that facilitating conditions in the form of rewards would encourage them to participate. Academics' attitudes on the IR was positive, but use was hindered by a lack of knowledge, fear of plagiarism, uncertainty of preservation and integrity of their work and the availability of other suitable platforms where they could share their work. Strategies recommended to improve IR use at UKZN included implementing an OA mandatory policy, strengthening OA education and IR training programmes to improve academics awareness, devising a reward system to recognise academics that were self-archiving, taking advantage of social factors to influence academics into using the IR and concerted efforts from the government, research funders and universities on OA. The study concludes that there is potential to improve IR use at UKZN and to enhance the access and visibility of its scholarship to the global research community.