18th LIASA Annual Conference: Abstracts: An exploratory study of the impediments to utilisation of public library services for rural community development

An Exploratory Study of the Impediments to Utilisation of Public Library Services for Rural Community Development

Annah Matodzi, Joseph Francis, Marizvikuru Manjoro

Access to timely and relevant information is widely acknowledged as an important input for rural community development. As such, public libraries should facilitate free access to this crucial resource which can help rural dwellers understand their rights and make informed decisions in various matters that can affect their livelihoods. In this paper it is argued that getting the views of the different segments of the community regarding the provision of library services can facilitate the development of a user-defined and driven model for enhanced functionality of public libraries in rural areas.  The objective of the study was to find out if the kind of information needed by the community differs according to age or gender.  The study used an exploratory design.  The sampling was purposive and included children, youth and adults to solicit their views regarding utilization and satisfaction with services in the library in Mutale Municipality of Vhembe district in South Africa.  Data were collected using focus group discussions with groups of children, youth and adults as well as in-depth interview with regular library users. The respondents in focus groups were further stratified by gender as it was important for this study to get responses of males and females separately.  Data were analysed using Atlas.ti version 8 looking at the differences and similarities across the various groups, gender and age.  The findings indicate that the majority of the villagers are not using the library. Those who are using the library indicated various challenges including the infrastructure of the library, lack of adequate, relevant and current materials, and insufficient library opening hours.  The respondents who are not using the library currently cited lack consultation when designing projects and implementing changes.  Positive response to these challenges could potentially benefit the community and uplift their lives. Thus, failure to implement the recommendations made by the community might hinder the library from providing relevant information for rural development.