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Academic information needs and information-seeking behaviour of Haythorne Secondary grade eight learners using the Msunduzi Woodlands Branch Public Library, Pietermaritzburg.

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Information is an essential ingredient for a socially and economically engaged democracy in any community. The changes and advancements in the educational system and the lack of school libraries have resulted in a paradigm shift in the role that public libraries play in the 21st century. This necessitates public libraries to become knowledgeable about current information needs and the information-seeking-behaviour of its users. It is against this backdrop that this study investigates the academic information needs and information-seeking behaviour of grade eight learners of Haythorne Secondary using the Msunduzi Woodlands Branch Public Library, Pietermaritzburg. The study’s methodology was largely quantitative, with some qualitative elements as it seeks to identify the academic information needs of a particular community. Hence a mixed methods approach was adopted in order to accommodate both sets of data. The study utilised a descriptive cross-sectional survey design. A census survey was undertaken with a sample of grade eight learners (256 learners) of Haythorne Secondary who used the Msunduzi Woodlands Branch Public Library, Pietermaritzburg. The study seeks to ensure equal representation as well as represented, input from both registered and non-registered library users. The instrument used for collecting data from learners was a self-administered questionnaire consisting of closed and open-ended questions. In addition, a semi-structured interview schedule was used to collect data from the Northern Branches Senior Librarian. The reliability and validity of the questionnaire were ensured through a pre-test on a group of grade eight learners at Eastwood Secondary School, Pietermaritzburg. The quantitative data was captured using SPSS software. The qualitative data were analysed manually using thematic analysis. The results of the study showed that the information needs and information-seeking behaviour of the learners was influenced by their age and educational context. Learners needed information for diverse purposes, however, their most frequent information need was for academic purposes, self-education, solving problems, health, recreation or leisure, news, family emerging sexuality and careers. The preferred information sources included the Internet, books, study guides, newspapers and informal information sources (professionals, family and friends). The barriers experienced by learners to seeking information from the library included the absence of public computers, Internet access, insufficient and relevant library resources and constraint of library hours. Based on the findings, recommendations were made to address certain problems presented in this study. The fundamental conclusion is that sustainable information dissemination and library services in public libraries within the 21st century will depend on a more dynamic leadership and vision of a new model of a public library that holistically embraces the absence of school libraries and bridges the digital divide.


Master of Social Sciences in Information Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2017.