Preservation of indigenous knowledge (IK) by public libraries in Westcliff, Chatsworth, Durban
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The aim of this research was to investigate the current awareness of indigenous knowledge (IK) among the youth in the Indian community in Westcliff, Chatsworth, in the Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The research sought to establish how IK is viewed by the youth and librarians, and whether - since IK is predominantly oral - there was a need to capture, document and preserve it within public libraries. Martin and Mirraboopa's (2003) framework for indigenist research provided a theoretical basis for the study and informed its qualitative research design. Two methods of data collection were used: (i) focus groups with youth of Westcliff, Chatsworth; and (ii) semistructured interviews with librarians at the local public library. The study revealed that there is a dire need to preserve IK in Westcliff, Chatsworth. IK was seen as important knowledge and the librarians and youth who participated recognised that if IK was not preserved it would be lost to future generations. Librarians interviewed also saw the need to preserve IK, recognising its importance and holding the view that the preservation of IK was a function that public libraries should perform but were not performing. The study also highlighted the need for community access to IK. The fact that IK is not currently stored in public libraries meant that there were no formal mechanisms to access this vital area of knowledge. Digital technology was recognised as a viable means to capture, document and preserve IK. This emerged from both the focus group discussions and the semi-structured interviews. IK was seen as an important prerequisite to cultural continuity in the Westcliff community. Librarians recognised that they lacked the skills and training to collect, document and preserve IK in their communities, but indicated that they were willing to learn how to do this, if appropriate instruction could be provided. The study made several recommendations for immediate practical steps to be taken, including the preservation of IK in video or audio formats, for deposit in the community's public library and curation by librarians; the recording of IK as practised at home through young people keeping a diary of family rituals, prayers and customs; the preservation of IK on websites created and maintained by librarians in public libraries; and the necessary and urgent participation of elders in the community who are the living carriers of IK.