The 21st century academic library: the case of three state universities in Zimbabwe
Mabweazara, Rangarirai Moira
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The advent of the 21st century and its dynamic information environment have changed higher education considerably including the library spaces. Library patrons, namely undergraduates, postgraduates, and academics are placing heavy demands on academic libraries requiring support in research, teaching and learning. As a result, academic librarians globally have undertaken major re-evaluations of what they do and how they do it, to ensure relevance amongst their diverse user communities. The new information landscape is fraught with controversies that prompt opposing perspectives towards change acceptance amongst librarians. In Zimbabwe, academic libraries seemed to be lagging behind regarding changes presented by this information landscape. Given this context, the study sought to understand how librarians are adjusting to the 21st century environment against the expectations of the students and academics. The Diffusion of Innovation Theory crafted by Rogers (2003) and the McKinsey 7S model propounded by Waterman, Peters and Phillips (1982) were used as theoretical and conceptual frameworks. The research further applied a conceptual framework from the literature to determine the expectations of students and academics of the academic library in the 21st century. For data collection, the study adopted a case study design and a mixed methods approach using Web-based questionnaires, follow-up interviews and website content analysis. Data was collected from students, academics and librarians at three selected Zimbabwean universities. All data collecting tools were pre-tested amongst librarians, academics, postgraduate and undergraduate students prior to collecting data. Data collected using questionnaires was analysed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel while interview data was analysed using thematic text analysis. Findings of this study revealed that the Midlands State University Library had to a larger extent embraced new trends which are in-line with the 21st century environment compared to the National University of Science and Technology and Lupane State University libraries. The Library and Information Science qualification remains important in service delivery among academic librarians. Inadequate funding, limited time due to multitasking, slow uptake of new concepts and limited knowledge and skills were barriers to keeping up with new trends amongst librarians. Academic librarians collaborated with academics in collection development, Information Literacy Skills (ILS) teaching and uploading theses and research papers into the Institution Repository (IR).