School Libraries Are a Must in Every Learning Environment: Advocating Libraries in High Schools in South Africa

School Libraries Are a Must in Every Learning Environment: Advocating Libraries in High Schools in South Africa

Beatrice Ngulube (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7429-3.ch016
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Despite the fact that South Africa has been a democracy for 23 years and the efforts made to improve the education landscape, there is still a crisis in the high school library system. This affects the school careers of learners and their lifelong-learning opportunities. The lack and loss of school libraries, as resources for education, deprive learners of their right to a school library and a place to grow mentally and academically. This chapter advocates for libraries in high schools. The study adopted a qualitative approach where primary data was collected through a multiple case study, using in-depth interviews at three schools in the Gauteng Province. School A was a rural high school; school B was a former model-C high school; and school C a township high school. The key findings underscore the importance of libraries in the academic success of learners. Recommendations are made on how advocacy for libraries in high schools could be re-directed.
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Introduction And Background

Research has revealed that effective school libraries increase student achievement in a variety of ways, such as increasing their performance in public examinations and tests (American Association of School Libraries, 2015; Baltimore Library Project, 2013; Chan, 2008; David-West & Bassey, 2017; Hart & Zinn, 2007; Kachel, 2017). Libraries also have an impact on the wisdom and comprehension of students. To strengthen this, Dring (2014) maintains that librarians help learners to evaluate what they have found; and more importantly to use information in a way that hones their note-taking skills, avoiding plagiarism. Librarians can teach students to be better, more independent researchers in a school where the librarian or learning resource centre manager is valued and properly utilised (Dring, 2014). It is evident that librarians are valuable in that they teach important skills and instill reading confidence. The lack of reading confidence in high school learners motivated the authors of this chapter to do research on high school libraries. The researcher had witnessed several learners struggling to read, when they evaluated pre-service teachers on teaching practice. The researcher then developed a strong desire to advocate for high school libraries. There are no library corners in the classrooms; hence. a school library is a necessity.

It must be emphasised that each school needs a functional library to improve information literacy and empower students to be independent researchers and stimulate their confidence. As far as South Africa is concerned, reading and libraries were established by the missionary communities in the 19th century which raised the literacy level (Hart & Zinn, 2007). In relation to schools, Satgoor (2015) adds that in 1993 South Africa had approximately 2000 school libraries. However, it is unbelievable that there are very few functional high school libraries in South Africa.

Research conducted by Paton-Ash and Wilmont (2015) on primary school libraries revealed that school libraries are not playing an effective role in supporting and enabling quality education for all South African children. There is great concern that school children should be given an opportunity to read a variety of reading materials ranging from, school textbooks and academic magazines to periodicals; and this would keep them abreast of current information, considering how important information literacy is. Hence, private and public schools should have well-equipped and established libraries and qualified librarians. This is in total agreement with studies which were conducted in 22 states in the United States of America and concluded that schools with well-equipped libraries staffed by a full-time certified librarian and appropriate support staff contribute significantly to gains in student learning (Baltimore Library Project, 2013). Therefore, libraries instil reading confidence in learners. The same sentiments are echoed by Hart and Zinn (2007); and Paton-Ash and Wilmont (2015) who argue that libraries stimulate the love of reading and sharpen the mind.

Furthermore, libraries are not only good for nurturing and growing a democracy, but they are also a gateway to participation in society through lifelong learning and access to information for its citizens (Satgoor, 2015). Lifelong learning is vital for everybody, irrespective of the age or level of education. The learners’ quest for knowledge does not have to end at the classroom door, or even after they have graduated (Dring, 2014). Learners must make education part of their adult life and reap the professional and personal benefits of an insatiably curious mind. This can only be achieved if schools have functional libraries and qualified staff.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Education Resources: Resources are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone.

Model C Schools: Are government schools that are administrated and largely funded by a governing body of parents and alumni.

Lifelong Learning: Is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.

School Library: Is a library within a school where students, staff, and often, parents of a public or private school have access to a variety of resources.

School Librarian: A person who works professionally in a library, providing access to information and sometimes social or technical programming.

Rural School: A school that is located outside cities and towns.

Township School: A school which predominantly admits black children.

Advocacy: The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.

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