An evaluation of the effectiveness of public libraries in providing information to school children: a case study of the Queenstown Public Library, Eastern Cape Province.

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University of Fort Hare


This study took the form of an evaluative study of the effectiveness of public libraries as a means of providing information to school children, and was conducted at the Queenstown Public Library in the province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. The research endeavoured to evaluate the effectiveness of public libraries in the role which they play to provide information to school children, despite the widespread belief that the role of libraries is now being replaced by Information and Communication Technologies, or ICTs. This study is also significant for the factors which contribute towards school children being prevented from receiving the full range of benefits which libraries have to offer and the recommendations which it makes to improve the effectiveness of the role played by libraries in this respect. The study could also be of benefit to the staff of libraries, as it could serve to inform them with respect to what needs to be done in order to improve the ways in which libraries make information available to school children. In this respect the research could also provide valuable insights into the strategies which need to be developed and adopted in order to make public libraries more effective providers of various types and forms of information to school children. It is to be hoped that the study will also make a valuable contribution to the existing body of knowledge concerning public libraries as a means of providing information to school children. It is the fervent wish of this researcher to make a credible and articulate case for the great value which public libraries have for school children, despite the fact that general perceptions no longer accord libraries the value which they were once commonly held to possess. The objectives of the study were: • To determine the needs of school children with respect to information. • To determine the extent to which public libraries in the province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa are effective providers of information to school children. • To establish the uses to which school children put the information which they seek. • To evaluate the relevance of the information which is available in public libraries to school children and to suggest how public libraries in the Eastern Cape may become more effective providers of relevant information to school children. The research method employed to collect data for this study took the form of a survey. Questionnaires were distributed and interviews and observations were also used to collect data. The principal findings generated the overall conclusion that although public libraries play an important role in providing information to school children, a number of challenges and problems need to be overcome to enable them to become highly effective providers of information to this very important sector of the population. The recommendations which are given on the basis of the conclusions of the study are that libraries need to improve their existing ICT equipment and also to purchase new ICT equipment for school children to use and to appoint librarians who are wholly dedicated to attending to the needs of school children. In addition, it is recommended that the municipalities and the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation should hold frequent meetings in order to attend to existing shortcomings on the part of the libraries within a short space of time, as they are the main units or departments responsible for the public libraries. It is also recommended that reading clubs for school children should be formed to enable them to improve their reading skills and their comprehension of written material. Apart from providing children with an opportunity to improve their reading capabilities, an initiative of this sort would also enable them to develop the ability to make effective use of the library, which would stimulate their interest in a range of subjects, make them more receptive to what they are taught at school and prepare them well for tertiary education.