18th LIASA Annual Conference: Abstracts: Profiling Public Library staff in the Western Cape: a survey

Profiling Public Library staff in the Western Cape: a survey

Helga Ursula Luise Fraser             

Current literature reveals that little research has been done about the status of the workforce in South African libraries, yet librarianship is seen as a scarce skill and is feared to be an aging profession. At the same time rapid technological developments have made new demands on library and information (LIS) workers, necessitating the upskilling of current staff. In order to undertake future workforce planning for libraries it is essential to first have a thorough picture of the current status of staffing in libraries. This paper reports on a comprehensive survey of the 1570 staff members employed in 340 library service points in the Western Cape. LIS workers were profiled according to their post designation, employment status, hours worked per week, their demographic profile (gender, population group, age group), language proficiency, highest educational level achieved, working experience in a library environment and remuneration received. Information was gathered by means of a questionnaire sent out to library managers of the 24 rural municipalities in the Western Cape and also was drawn from a human resources database of all LIS employees in the City of Cape Town libraries. A quantitative data analysis of the survey reveals that the biggest group of employees in Western Cape libraries are library assistants who are permanently employed, are female, are from the coloured population group, are between the age group of 35 and 50 years and are Afrikaans speaking. The survey also shows that significantly more qualified LIS workers are employed in City of Cape Town libraries compared to rural libraries. Lastly, remuneration of staff in City of Cape Town libraries is significantly higher than that of staff in rural libraries. The survey lends itself to important follow-up studies, for example linking professional qualifications to age and population group and comparing the status quo to the proposed norms and standards for public libraries in the Western Cape.