Library anxiety and the academic library: an investigation into student library experiences at the University of Cape Town

Master Thesis


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Research across Asia and the United States has investigated library anxiety among undergraduate students from tertiary institutions; however, a gap exists in research conducted in Southern Africa. The purpose of this study was to investigate undergraduate student experiences at the University of Cape Town and to determine whether library anxiety exists among undergraduate students. The following critical questions were generated to address the problem: How do undergraduate students experience the academic library? Does the phenomenon of library anxiety exist among undergraduate students at the University of Cape Town? If so, in what ways does library anxiety manifest? The theory underpinning this research is Library Anxiety Theory. Library anxiety is a phenomenon used to describe the development of feelings of fear, uncertainty, or confusion, by undergraduate students when using an academic library. These feelings can be associated with aspects of the library experience: library staff, library environment, library resources and services, library policies, ICTS, and information literacy. A mixed method approach was used incorporating quantitative and qualitative methodology to achieve a broader understanding of the phenomenon. Quantitative data was collected using the Library Anxiety Questionnaire and qualitative methodology was collected by interviews with four undergraduate students and five academic librarians. Descriptive analysis of quantitative data and thematic analysis of qualitative data were used. The results of the study revealed that library anxiety exists at UCT amongst undergraduate students. Students have varied experiences of the academic library both positive and negative. Negative experiences could lead undergraduate students to develop library anxiety. The results of the study revealed further areas of research which could be beneficial to academic libraries in South Africa.