Stewart -Part 6
Information, Research, and Cultural Capital
South Africa is a nation rich in intellectual and cultural resources. There are 11 official languages that span a vast ethnic and cultural landscape. Libraries and archives play a prominent role in preserving South Africa’s "living heritage" and promoting a "non-racial understanding of the nation’s diverse heritage" (Bredekamp, 2007). Academic libraries also play a role retaining the society's intellectual capital for the benefit of the nation. Fourie (2007) discusses the role of organizations such as the National Research Foundation facilitating knowledge creation across a range of disciplines, and the Department of Culture's Subdirectorate of Meta-Information's role in promoting, establishing, and building a national information system. De Beer (2007) outlines the importance of the 1998 National Library of South Africa Act in strengthening the national library's cataloging authority control and resource sharing across over 600 libraries in the South African region. The role of academic libraries, archives, and consortia is also highlighted in Henrici's study of approaches to developing a national information policy for South Africa, particularly the application of information communication technologies in helping overcome "legacies of the past" (2004). Raju, et al. (2007) offer a critical analysis of a recent, problematic migration of two academic libraries and one public library to an expensive, off-the-shelf integrated library systeme. The authors argue for a return to the development of open access integrated library systems such as URICA - originally produced in South Africa - as a way to "retain financial resources in the country and generate new knowledge."
Like other academic libraries across the globe, South African higher education institutions are promoting the open access model as an alternative to the commercially driven system that dominates scholarly publishing. In a study of South African research managers and scholars, Fullard (2007) found that while there was a high awareness of open access in the South African research community, only a minority of respondents could identify key tenets of open access. Respondents also showed a general lack of knowledge about the relationships between open access and the rising costs of scholarly material. Fullard concludes by pointing out that approximately 90 percent of scholarly publication is generated by research at six-seven historically advantaged institutions. This disparity of scholarly output produces a general level of satisfaction with the current model accompanied by the belief that open access journals lack the rigor of commercially produced publications; this in turn inhibits near term collective movement towards open access in South African higher education. Fullard (2007) stresses the importance of the academic library's role in generating awareness and "advocating for open access at the policy level." She also highlights the importance of building institutional repositories at South African universities as a way of preserving intellectual capital and research output. One important open access resource for preserving African intellectual capital, however, is already enjoying widespread success as a major resource for scholars across the world. Aluka is an "international, collaborative initiative building an online digital library of scholarly resources from and about Africa." In addition to housing major collections on African cultural heritage, plants, and freedom struggles, Aluka "builds capacity in Africa for digitization and use of online materials for teaching and research." Currently, South Africa leads the 91 Aluka international members in institutional participation ("What is Aluka." 2008).
HIV/AIDS Information Dissemination
In South Africa, a nation in which an estimated 12 percent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS, almost 25 percent of those cases are concentrated among 15-24 year olds (World Health Organization, 2008). The academic library has an important role to play in the campus HIV/AIDS information network. Dube and Ocholla's study of 36 universities and technikons in South Africa stressed the importance of information resources provided by the library:
"HIV/AIDS specific information resources provided by the library are crucial as their depth, appropriateness, relevance accessibility, affordability, and usability will strengthen or compromise the institutional response."