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In 1994, the new Ministry of Education published a draft policy discussion document setting the tone for the educational legislation of the next few years. It stated that the curriculum should encourage “independent and critical thought, the capacity to question, enquire and reason, to weigh evidence and form judgements, to achieve under- standing, and to recognise the provisional and incomplete nature of most human knowledge” (South Africa, 1994b). This kind of language indicated recognition of the need for information literacy education – widely accepted to be the specific mission of school librarianship. The interim curriculum of 1994 included an Information Skills Learning Programme (South Africa, 1994a) and, in a series of workshops, school librarians across the country designed an information skills programme to be incorporated into the envisaged new curriculum.
The shifts in education on both fronts seemed to promise a favourable climate for school libraries. However, in 2007, it has to be said that the promise remains unfulfilled. This chapter’s account will describe the present situation and, hopefully, by delving a little into the educational and historical context, explore possible reasons for the disappointments of the past 13 years.
The chapter is a synthesis of the authors’ research, teaching and professional activities in South African school librarianship. It occasionally draws on information garnered from key informants working in school library support services across the country, whose opinions on their successes and stumbling blocks were polled in 2001 (Zinn, 2001) and by email in late 2006. They were assured anonymity but the text makes it clear when reference is made to their opinions and comments.