Investigating establishment, functionality and sustainability of primary school libraries
This research was conducted to examine and describe the status of the establishment of functional and sustainable libraries in primary schools of the Motheo District in the Free State province, South Africa. Within the South African context, research supports the view that libraries in schools contribute to improving literacy rates amongst learners in primary levels (Paton-Ash & Wilmot, 2013: 145). It has been argued that if a school has a functioning school library, learners’ performance in reading may improve by up to 8% (DG Murray Trust, 2015). As far as can be established, very few studies have been conducted on the establishment of functional and sustainable school libraries within the context of South Africa. Furthermore, it is significant that to date no research has been conducted that investigates the establishment, functionality or sustainability of primary school libraries in any of the education districts of the Free State. To address this apparent gap, this study focused on the status of primary school libraries in the Motheo District of the Free State province. It further explored whether these libraries fulfil their purpose, as set out by the National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services (DBE, 2012) and the Free State Department of Education Policy for Education, Library, Information Technological Services (FSDoE ELITS, 2002a). This study was informed by an interpretivist paradigm and was qualitative in nature. To collect data, I employed the following methods: a literature review, policy analysis, structured observation and semi-structured interviews. A literature review was conducted to determine the importance of school libraries as well as to explore to what extent other countries managed to sustain the functionality of libraries despite their own challenges. Secondly, a policy analysis was conducted to determine the South African policy framework for the establishment of functional and sustainable libraries in schools. In this regard, a content analysis of both the National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services (DBE, 2012) and Free State Department of Education Policy for Education, Library, Information, Technological Services (FSDoE ELITS, 2002a) was conducted. Thirdly, structured observations were employed in twelve primary schools situated in the ten areas of the Motheo District. These structured observations were carried out during the initial phase of data collection to generate questions for the interviews that would follow, as well as to identify relevant research participants. Participants were identified at four primary schools and invited to clarify contributing and inhibiting factors of establishing and maintaining functional school libraries. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse both the semi-structured interview and structured observation data. Data analysis revolved around the three themes of library establishment, functionality and sustainability. This study provides a general description of the status of the establishment and functionality of libraries in primary schools in the Motheo District in the Free State province.