Stewart -Part 5
Organizational Change -Continued
While Dick (2002) posits that there are still "many librarians with doubtful political pasts that still hold powerful positions in the library world," there is considerable effort to redress the inequities of the past by expanding library employment opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups. There are challenges as well, including high unemployment in South Africa, which results in reduced job mobility and low staff turnover. University of Witwatersrand librarian Heather Edwards (1999) outlines several strategies for managing the emerging multicultural academic library workplace, including the necessity of having a well designed plan for affirmative action hiring as required by the Department of Labor. Edwards shares some of the library's progress in placing blacks in more positions in general, and more supervisory/professional positions specifically. Perhaps most interesting about her article is her concise detail of race-based hiring scenarios. Now that this article is nearly a decade old, it would be very interesting to read a follow up story from "Wits" libraries.
Economics plays a large part in progress towards improving quality and access to South African higher education, particularly in the improvement of historically disadvantaged universities. Public funding for the transformation agenda needs to be increased (Thomas, 2007). Several information literacy and user services studies attribute poor information skills among many South African college students to a lack of information technology resources and staff in campus libraries (Darries, 2004; Ojedokun, 2000; Mgobozi and Ocholla, 2002; Stoffberg and Blignaut, 2008). The South African economic policy of growth, employment, and redistribution(GEAR) is tightly integrated with globalization and macroeconomics, neither of which provides counter balance to the commercialization of scholarly information. This puts most academic libraries - but especially under-resourced libraries - at a serious disadvantage. Dick (2005) argues that South Africa's "alliances" with organizations such as the IMF and WTO can have a detrimental affect on academic libraries. Librarians should understand the affects of macroeconomic policies on South African libraries and resist commoditization of information in all forms. The high cost of scholarly information, particularly scientific information, places particular stress on newly integrated libraries at merged upgraded institutions. A recent study comparing planning and collection development at libraries at New Zealand technikons that have been re-classed as research universities and a South African technikon that has been newly designated as a research university found that institutional support for the South African technikon library is severely inadequate to support masters and doctoral level research (van Zijl and Gericke, 2006).
Another economic challenge faced by South African academic libraries is the cost associated with building and accessing high bandwidth telecommunications infrastructures. South African library consortia are among the world's most economically, ethnically, and geographically diverses. In order to meet the needs of a democratizing society, these organizations require low tariff access to high bandwidth infrastructures (Darch, et al., 1999). While the telecommunications infrastructure has improved in South Africa over the past decadey, information technology and telecommunications costs remain a common challenge in the provision of library services at many South African colleges and universities. During the apartheid era, institutions of higher education were divided along racial and ethnic lines. Financial support was duplicated and divided, resulting in a fragmented system comprised of institutions that were designed not to work with each other (Darch, et al., 1999). While there were some "pockets of excellence," most of the citizenry lacked access to "rudimentary library and information services." In raising this point, Darch and Underwood highlight the importance of consortial purchasing. They add that, due to public sector economic challenges faced by the new democracy, academic libraries will play an increasing role in the provision of library services to the population as a whole.