To read this content please select one of the options below:

Rethinking academic library space amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa: preparing for the future

Collence Takaingenhamo Chisita (Department of Information Science, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)
Ukwoma Scholastica Chizoma (Department of Library, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria and School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies (SIRGS), University of South Africa – Muckleneuk Campus, Pretoria, South Africa)

Information Discovery and Delivery

ISSN: 2398-6247

Article publication date: 22 March 2021

Issue publication date: 20 May 2021




Academic libraries’ response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic might be an opportunity to reassert and reemphasise their roles in the national disaster management matrix. The purpose of this study is to review the responses of academic libraries in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global outbreak of COVID-19 has precipitated a challenge amongst all institutions, communities and libraries as evidenced by the growing lockdowns, deaths and shocking statistics of infections. This has triggered a fundamental need to rethink how libraries can establish innovative ways to continue providing services to users.


This study adopted the interpretive research paradigm to review the situation in South Africa in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study used an analysis of secondary sources, the activities that took place and personal experience to answer the research questions.


The analysis showed that academic libraries and publishers have risen to the occasion, offering more free content and curating personalised collections so that citizens can have uninterrupted access to content and learning. The digital libraries in South Africa are considered vital alleyways to high-quality e-books, journals and educational content, including open educational resources. Digital library services have enabled academic libraries in South Africa to excel in providing online services, therefore ensuring that learning, research and teaching continued.


This study, using Habermas’s idea of the public sphere as a fundamental theoretical framework, notes that when the physical space is closed, it is necessary for academic libraries in South Africa to make use of the digital space. This study will contribute to the corpus of knowledge relating to South African digital libraries’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.



The authors would like to acknowledge the Department of Information Sciences at the University of South Africa (UNISA) for the support and the reviewers for their wise counsel.

Funding: The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and /or publication of this article.


Chisita, C.T. and Chizoma, U.S. (2021), "Rethinking academic library space amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa: preparing for the future", Information Discovery and Delivery, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 105-113.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles