The role of the academic library in supporting postgraduate students and researchers within the Community and Health Sciences Faculty at the University of the Western Cape
Research, aimed at strengthening the economy and driving development, with the view to address South Africa’s numerous challenges and/or advance knowledge, generally, exists in abundance. It has highlighted the crucial role played by institutions of higher learning, such as universities, in this regard. In particular, the contribution of academic libraries in supporting the country’s agenda, with regard to its teaching and research goals, has come to the fore. Academic libraries have been portrayed, quite correctly, as the legitimate heart of the university, for majority of scholars rely heavily on their collections and services in their quest to develop new knowledge. However, the role played by these important facilities in supporting postgraduate students and researchers in South Africa is yet to be comprehensively examined. With a view to partly address this existent knowledge gap, this study examines the interaction between the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC’s) library and the institution’s Faculty of Community and Health Sciences’ postgraduate students and researchers. In accomplishing this task, I explore the skill set and competencies required of the subject librarian to best support the research needs of postgraduate students and researchers at UWC’s Faculty of Community and Health Sciences. I also investigate the perceptions and expectations of postgraduate students and researchers vis-à-vis the institution’s library. Additionally, this study explores the innovative measures adopted by UWC’s library in its quest to provide competent and satisfactory services to its postgraduate students and researchers. For its theoretical framework, this study employs the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI), also known as Roger’s model. This framework has been used to explore how innovative research services can be established and offered to support postgraduate students and researchers’ needs. This study employs a mixed methods approach and makes use of various data collection instruments, namely, survey questionnaires and interviews. The collected data has been analyzed through the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The transcribed interviews have been analyzed thematically. The findings indicated some gaps between postgraduate students’ and researchers’ expectations for library’s research support services, research workshops and skills and competencies of a subject librarian. The findings also revealed postgraduate students’ and researchers’ perception of the library’s research support services, research workshops and subject librarians’ skills and competencies to be fulfilled. Even though many of the identified needs are currently being addressed by UWC library, several potential areas for improvement were identified. One of the major challenges is the awareness of the library services and facilities the library offers to support research. Other challenges that postgraduates’ students and researchers are facing is that they are often not aware how to search for information, easy access to the library’s resources and the expertise of the subject librarians.