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Knowledge sharing practices in public libraries: a case study of eThekwini Municipal Libraries (EML)

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In the information age, knowledge is predominantly seen as one of the most important assets in both private and public organisations and should therefore be managed carefully. The aim of the study was to investigate the knowledge sharing practices in public libraries: a case study of eThekwini Municipal Libraries (EML). Knowledge management (KM) and knowledge sharing (KS) in public libraries has increasingly come into focus but very little literature is available on knowledge sharing in public libraries in the South African context. eThekwini Municipal has adopted a number of KM initiatives in order to improve the municipalities’ service delivery and to meet its strategic vision. The study was guided by the following research questions: What was the extent of knowledge sharing at EML? What knowledge sharing practices were undertaken at EML? What was the attitude and perception of library staff towards knowledge sharing? What were the challenges facing the library staff with regards to knowledge sharing? What strategies could EML use to overcome such challenges. The study was informed by the Socialisation, Externalisation, Combination and Internalisation (SECI) Model of knowledge creation, also known as the Knowledge Conversion Theory. This study was guided by the post-positivism paradigm and used the mixed methods research design, which included both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. The targeted population consisted of 168 respondents. A census was used to collect data from professional library staff. Qualitative data was collected from district managers by means of face-to-face and telephonic semi-structured interviews and quantitative data was collected from the senior librarians, librarians and assistant librarians by means of self-administered questionnaires administered online via email. The computer software program Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to analyse the quantitative data obtained from the set of closed questions in the questionnaire. Results of data analysis were presented in the form of tables, figures, charts, and verbal descriptions. Qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis; qualitative data was organised and presented according to the research questions and involved the discussions of themes and categories. The major findings were that library staff at EML had strong feelings that knowledge sharing with co-workers was a good practice. The findings also revealed that there are a number of problems associated with knowledge sharing at EML. There was consensus between interview and questionnaire respondents that there was knowledge sharing challenges at EML. Such challenges were divided into individual and organisational factors. In line with these findings, respondents were asked to recommend strategies for improving knowledge sharing at EML. The top five recommendations made by respondents included top management support, organisational culture, organisational structure, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), and a budget to support knowledge sharing projects.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.