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Echoes down the corridor. Experiences and perspectives of library and information science education (LISE) during COVID-19 through an African lens

Dennis N. Ocholla (Information Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Zululand, Richards Bay, South Africa)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 19 March 2021

Issue publication date: 20 May 2021

Abstract

Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in enormous challenges, but also presented opportunities that have notable implications for the future. The aim of this paper is to explore and discuss the experiences, perspectives, challenges and opportunities of Library and Information Science Educators (LISE) during the pandemic. The aim is articulated in the following three research questions: How is the COVID-19 pandemic experienced by LISE and in research? What are the perceptions formed during the period? And what are the challenges and opportunities?

Design/methodology/approach

This is an interpretivist qualitative study informed by disaster management theories. The study involved the content analysis of existing literature with a focus on COVID-19 and higher education, particularly LISE, in conjunction with an open-ended email questionnaire that was sent to selected LIS educators/faculty/staff from major LIS Schools from eight sub-Saharan African countries. The author used personal experiences and observation to supplement the data and the interpretation.

Findings

Results show more similarities than differences in how the COVID-19 pandemic is experienced and perceived, as well as the challenges and opportunities that it brings to the sector. As a whole, political factors are most pronounced, meaning that administration and decision-making need more attention in the sector. Also notable is that opportunities are mostly linked to technological factors, which will determine the “new normal” for LISE in the future. Almost all the narratives focused on the middle level of (during) the disaster life cycle, which is understandable as the complete cycle of the disaster is yet to come, likely when COVID-19 ceases to be a threat.

Research limitations/implications

The sample was small, as related studies focus more on COVID-19 and higher education, with hardly any focusing on LISE. The COVID-19 pandemic has not ended, so the disaster management life cycle cannot be fully exploited. Furthermore, the author’s categorization of responses within PEST was largely judgmental.

Practical implications

New research, teaching and learning developmental paths have been created for LISE. The study provides practical reflection on the effects of COVID-19 on the sector and HEIs that can inform discourse and responses to the pandemic.

Originality/value

The study explores a new research domain in LISE and due to limited research in the domain brings together important voices/narratives – based on their experiences – of LIS educators in Africa on the research area. Further, it proposes the future of LISE under COVID-19 within the 4IR framework.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper in this Special Issue was specifically invited because of the expertise of the author to respond to the issues raised in the Editorial at https://doi.org/10.1108/LM-04-2020-143. The paper is part of the Issue of the Worst Case Scenarios and the Virus. Each paper has been formally reviewed and the author has responded to the comments in the customary manner.The author wishes to thank and appreciate the generous and honest responses that were received from his academic colleagues – whose names are kept anonymous – from the LIS schools in Africa indicated in the article for this project. In addition, the author thanks the special issue editor for including him in this project and the reviewers for their critical remarks that has improved the quality of this article significantly. The support from his university during his sabbatical is appreciated.

Citation

Ocholla, D.N. (2021), "Echoes down the corridor. Experiences and perspectives of library and information science education (LISE) during COVID-19 through an African lens", Library Management, Vol. 42 No. 4/5, pp. 305-321. https://doi.org/10.1108/LM-02-2021-0016

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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