Professional development for subject librarians in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mchunu, Mbangiseni Eric.
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Professional development (PD) is an important consideration for academic librarians. The broad purpose of the study was to investigate the PD of subject librarians in four selected academic institutions in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The four institutions were the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the University of Zululand (UZ), Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). The Maintaining Professional Competence Model provided the conceptual theoretical framework for the study. The model highlights the roles of both individual and organisational factors in what it refers to as “updating activities”. In terms of the methodology, the population numbered 50 subject librarians from the four institutions of which 48 responded giving a response rate of 96%. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were applied. The former comprised a questionnaire survey administered by email to all 48 participants while a focus group discussion constituted the qualitative method. Eight subject librarians from the Pietermaritzburg Campus of the UKZN participated in the focus group. In terms of the findings, PD was seen in a positive light by the vast majority of the respondents. Attendance of workshops and conferences and furthering studies were shown to be the leading forms of PD opportunities offered at the institutions and the prominent forms of PD activities. There was evidence of a “mismatch” in certain instances between what subject librarians thought was needed concerning PD and what management thought. Information communication technologies (ICTs) and information management skills emerged as the most sought after by the respondents. As expected, finance was identified as the major challenge and there was overwhelming support for the use of webinars in PD. The study confirmed that there is a strong support for PD taking the form of in-house training and workshops. The subject librarians perceived PD in a positive light being seen as both important and beneficial. Conclusions were made and recommendations put forward. Some of these include the need for management to recognise the importance of PD and ensure that they are supportive of it; to make more use of PD activities which had less financial costs (such as webinars using the Internet); to focus on the skills identified as needed by the subject librarians (including teaching and training skills); and to be sensitive to age and gender of their subject librarian staff with regard to PD. Finally, various suggestions for further research were made.