The provision of library and information services to the visually impaired (VI) users by the Msunduzi Municipal Library (MML).
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Public libraries have a moral obligation to make information available to all categories of users regardless of their gender, age, race, political affiliation or disability and therefore the library’s potential user group is the entire population. However, more often than not, people living with disabilities, particularly visual impairment found themselves wondering if this statement is ever be a reality. This thesis investigates the provision of library and information services to the visually impaired library users by the Msunduzi Municipal Library (Bessie Head) (MML). This study is not suggesting that the MML should divert its services towards the VI, as it is not specialised in this regard, however, as a public library MML should be able to respond to the needs of its community without discriminating against any form of disability. The study’s research questions tried to understand: when/how often do the VI users use the MML and what are the services they use and why?; what are the accessibility problems experienced by the VI users with the resources offered by the MML?; what policies does the library have in order to promote inclusivity and equality with regard to the VI?; what challenges are experienced by the MML in seeking to provide services to the VI and what, if necessary, needs to be done to improve the services?; what kind of training do the library staff receive in relation to services to VI, what kind of training is needed? The Human Rights Model of disability guided the present study. This study sought to solicit as much information/data as possible and thus qualitative research approach was employed using semi-structured interviews in order to better understand the experiences of VI users. The sample consisted of 17 VI registered library users, seven library assistants, the librarian, the senior librarian as well as the principal librarian. The main barriers to accessing the resources offered by MML are the lack of transport to and from the library, information in an appropriate format and in the preferred language, limited number of computers and outdated software. As for the MML staff, they experienced challenges when it comes to the functioning of the devices used by the VI users, lack of awareness of the service itself, and lack of skills on how to serve the VI. Workshops were conducted by representatives from the South African Library for the Blind (SALB) but the staff is still finding it difficult to serve the VI with confidence. The MML has not used/explored the platforms that are available to the library in order to market and publicize the services they have available for the VI. This study concludes by making recommendations for improving the library and information service to the VI. The MML is one of the public libraries identified by the Department of Arts and Culture to bridge the information gap thereby keeping the VI abreast of what is going on in the province, country and the world at large. Therefore, the recommendations offered in this study could be useful to other public libraries offering services to the VI.