The application of a participatory evaluation method to the public library : the case of Tholulwazi Library, Besters Camp, Inanda, Durban.
A participatory evaluation method used to evaluate development projects is applied to the public library. The Tholulwazi Library, Besters Camp, Inanda - the first library established by the Durban Municipal Library service in an informal settlement - is the case used in the study. The developmental context of public libraries in South Africa in the 1990s provided part of the justification for this approach. This context relates to community demands for libraries along with other development services, as well as claims of developmental and educational benefit used to motivate for public library funding. Diminishing public budgets and calls for efficiency and effectiveness in the public service, suggest the need to evaluate and demonstrate impact and community benefit. In addition a survey of the literature on library evaluation since the 1970s indicates that useful, easily applicable methods of library evaluation are unavailable to the practitioner, hence the justification for considering models developed in other sectors. This thesis surveys the library evaluation literature, and then looks to trends in the evaluation of social service and development projects and programmes. An approach which combines a systematic and objectives-oriented approach, effected by a participatory methodology is selected and applied to the Tholulwazi Library. The evaluation takes place via a questionnaire survey of a group of library users (students), a use register and library counter-based survey; supplemented by existing population data on the Besters area. A work group consisting of library staff and user representatives, facilitated by the author, conducted the evaluation. The evaluation results reflect on the validity of library planning, and quantify and qualify the extent and type of use of students users, and the benefit derived. These results are analysed in relation to library objectives, and the coincidence or deviation commented upon. Recommendations for action in the management of Tholulwazi Library are given, as well as recommendations applicable to the planning and establishment of new libraries in other informal settlements and townships. Suggestions as to further use of this evaluation approach are given, in addition to comments on the relevance and applicability of the methodology. These focus on the strategic and managerial benefit of demonstrating a link between library resources and activities (funded by public moneys), to use and user benefit. The use of a participatory methodology is shown to be technically necessary in demonstrating this link, as well as politically strategic. Valid and appropriate decision-making by management needs input from all levels, hence the value of utilising 'multiple realities' of all groupings involved with delivery at a particular service point, in such an evaluation. The approach used suggests a more conscious approach to management of libraries generally. It points to specific, periodic reflection on and analysis of the role of the library as a social institution and the societal problems addressed. This includes analysis of the library environment, focusing on existing and potential target groups. The analysis applies in relation to conscious planning procedures, as well as ongoing monitoring and periodic evaluation of endeavours.
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