Stewart -Part 2
Higher Education Reform -Continued
Like most institutions in South Africa, academic libraries have not escaped the "historical baggage of apartheid and separate development" (Thomas, 2007). The Extension of Higher Education Act in 1959 barred black students from most South African universities, and in general, the university system reflected societal inequalities, with black and colored institutions at a distinct disadvantage. In the years following apartheid, reforming higher education by creating a "rational and seamless system" became a national priority (Thomas, 2007). Muller (2006) describes the need articulated at the time for a reformed system to be consistent with the goals of the new democracy and also serve as an agent for social and economic change. Libraries were a part of this process from the beginning. For example, there was significant activity in forming and expanding library consortia beginning in 1992, and the National Library of South Africa Act was passed in 1998 (Furie, 2007). By the late 1990's, the South African government began to take a more aggressive role in promoting higher education reform. Thomas (2007) discusses the circumstances that led to the formation of the Size and Shape Taskforce of the Council of Higher Education (CHE). The CHE was formed as part of the National Higher Education Act in 1997. It was this task force that would start the South African higher education system on the path towards mergers, closings, and consolidations that would culminate in 2004-05 with 25 remaining institutions (Thomas, 2007). Ramifications from mergers and consolidations have been far reaching for South African academic libraries, especially in regards to organizational issues, which will be discussed later in this paper.
Quality assurance in South African academic libraries is closely linked to a post-apartheid emphasis on improving service provided by institutions serving all sectors of South African society. Dlamini (2006) reports on a study of several academic libraries in KwaZul-Natal in which library service was analyzed within the framework of Batho Pele, the South African government's manifesto calling for quality, customer respect, and openness from the public service sector (Batho Pele, 2008). This study found that while library users were in general satisfied with the provision of information services and did indeed "feel" like customers, most did not know the identity of the library's customer care person. This lack of knowledge on the part of the library users indicated to researchers that very few of the libraries had customer care policies in place. Dlamini argues for vigorous training for academic librarians in the principles of Batho Pele. Quality assurance infrastructures include the Committee for Higher Education Librarians in South Africa (CHELSA), which Thomas (2007) describes as part of a larger framework of the CHE quality assurance system. Ojedokun's (2000) study of library support for distance learning at South African universities found that library services for students in distance education programs are compromised by a lack of support from parent institutions, inadequate information technology infrastructures, and low staffing levels.
South African academic libraries, like their counterparts in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, are becoming more involved in activities related to educational outcomes assessment, namely information literacy. Thorough assessment, of course, requires rich data of and about organizations, collected in a uniform and predictable way from all academic libraries in the South African system. The dynamic change in South African higher education over the past decade highlights the need for better data collection across institutions, which has become the charge of the aforementioned CHELSA (Thomas, 2007). Mgobozi and Ocholla (2002) discuss quality of library instructional programs within the context of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), an organization which oversees the implementation of a national qualifications framework. Institutional research output is linked to governmental funding formulas as an assessment mechanism. This formula has created disparities between traditional universities and technikons, some of which have recently been recast as research institutions but are not receiving adequate support to build research library collections (van Zijl, et al., 2006).