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Human resource management in Southern African libraries

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to review human resource management (HRM) in the selected, mainly academic libraries of Southern Africa. It is to determine the level at, and manner by which, HRM issues are handled in those libraries and their parent organisations. The paper seeks to discuss the transition from the traditional personnel administration to an HRM approach of focusing on humans as a valuable resource at workplace and the implications. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Through literature review, the philosophy and an understanding of HRM plus its branch of human resource development (HRD) were developed. A questionnaire was designed for the target senior librarians who gave information on how they handled HRM. Discussions were held with some respondents; observations were also made on HRM processes at play. That triangulation generated data from 13 libraries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland (BLNSAS). Findings ‐ The paper finds that the HRM approach has been adopted in BLNSAS, where library managers' participation varies in each of the HRM core functions, namely, workforce recruitment, HRD, employment relations, health/safety, performance assessment and remuneration. Some librarians handle HRM issues unassisted, others jointly work with HR officers. To the disadvantage of libraries, some others are aloof from HRM. Recommendations include librarians' close interaction with HR professionals; further studies, training plus advocacy in HRM. Originality/value ‐ The paper has reviewed the strengths and weaknesses over this still fluid HRM approach; raised awareness on desirable levels of participation by library managers; and how working relations among employees and employers may create an environment that enhances institutional performance for effective library management in the BLNSAS libraries.
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Keywords: Human resource management; Libraries; Southern Africa

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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