Fewer than 8% of schools in South Africa have functioning libraries. This qualitative study, based on grounded theory, investigated ten primary schools in Gauteng that had libraries, or were in the process of setting up a library with the intention of providing a rich description of the issues and challenges facing these schools. The schools were chosen on the basis of location (Soweto and Johannesburg), and the school fees that were paid in a continuum from low/no fee paying schools to the fee paying ex Model-C schools. The findings highlight the lack of a national policy, of school library posts, the theft of computers as a result of the lack of security, as well as the lack of understanding by teachers of the role the library in teaching and learning. Furthermore, there appears to be a disjuncture between the trends evident in the international literature on school libraries and what is actually happening in the primary school libraries in my study. Most significantly low/no fee paying schools with libraries were the exception and those that did have libraries were as a result of the enthusiasm and efforts of one or two individuals with the backing of the principal. Ex-Model C schools had the advantage in terms of the provision and staffing of school libraries as they had the funds to support them and, in some cases, a school librarian, provided that the principal supported the idea of a school library. In all the schools, the belief in the importance of the library regarding reading and literacy was the main motivating factor in establishing or maintaining the school library. A growing public awareness of the value of school libraries was an encouraging trend that emerged from my study.
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