Social media, diffusion of innovations, morale and digital inequality. A case study at the University of Limpopo Libraries, South Africa

Published date16 September 2019
Date16 September 2019
AuthorMarion Lucille Williams,Alexander Dhoest,Ian Saunderson
Social media, diffusion of
innovations, morale and
digital inequality
A case study at the University of
Limpopo Libraries, South Africa
Marion Lucille Williams
Department of Communication Sciences, Universiteit Antwerpen,
Antwerp, Belgium and
Department of Library and Information Science, University of Limpopo,
Polokwane, South Africa
Alexander Dhoest
Department of Communication Studies, Universiteit Antwerpen,
Antwerp, Belgium, and
Ian Saunderson
Department of Communication Studies, University of Limpopo,
Polokwane, South Africa
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore social media usage in an academic library in South Africa
and the factors influencing its use. The primary goal of the study was to examine perceptions surrounding the
impact of non-adoption of social media on morale, and to explore the consequences of digital inequality.
Design/methodology/approach Using a qualitative method, in-depth interviews were conducted with a
small sample comprising six key informants at the University of Limpopo Libraries.
Findings The findings suggest that non-adoption of social media has a negative influence on morale, and
that it is a very necessary tool required for interaction with students as well as promotion and marketing of
the librarys resources.
Research limitations/implications This paper is limited to one academic library in South Africa
situated in a rural area. The research suggests that more academic libraries in rural areas be studied to
ascertain if geographical location and finance are barriers to social media adoption.
Originality/value This study addresses non-adoption of social media and suggests ways to improve
employee morale and retention. The research contributes to current research.
Keywords Academic libraries, Social media, Digital divide, Environmental factors, Employee morale,
Paper type Case study
There have been numerous requests from both library employees and students to
implement social media in the librarys communication to its students. The first author, a
senior librarian, had the opportunity to work with employees at University of Limpopo
Libraries (ULL), and being part of a non-adoptive social media environment, the first and
third authors, employed at the University, were led to research how librarians feel about
being excluded from these platforms. The main purpose of this study was thus to examine
the impact and perceptions on employee morale in respect of the banning and blocking of
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 37 No. 3, 2019
pp. 480-495
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-12-2018-0192
Received 8 December 2018
Accepted 14 February 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The authors would like to express sincere gratitude to Dr Elizabeth S. van Aswegen (Liz van Aswegen)
for her support, for proofreading and editing this research project.
social media during core business hours. Based on six narratorsstories, we discuss the
barriers preventing them from exercising the growing need to implement new and
innovative technologies. Rural areas are characterised by underdeveloped information and
communications technology (ICT) infrastructures, the high cost of telecommunications,
unstable and unreliable power, densely populated areas, low-income levels, few roads and
limited means of transport (Kapondera and Hart, 2016, p. 13). Similarly, Nkondo et al. (2014,
p. xxiv) define the digital divide as the gap between people with effective access to digital
and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the
imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills
needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen.
Of the nine provinces in South Africa, Limpopo is the fifth largest province, with the
highest population of young people in the country.Tertiary institutionsin rural provinces can
be classified as historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs). It should be noted that the
University of Limpopo (UL) belongs to the category of universities in South Africa that are
referred to as HDIs.HDIs are typically marked by limitedresources, certain kinds ofcurricula
and approachesto teaching and learning, and tend to be educationally and sociallybenevolent
and accessibleto the average student (Kaburise,2014, p. 8). A study conducted by Osunkunle
(2010, p. 381) noted the disparities between HDIs and historically advantaged institutions
(HAIs) inSouth Africa and focussed on the digitalinequality at the UL. AlthoughSouth Africa
has been a democratic country since 1994, there are still several inequalities dating from the
apartheidera (Mnkeni-Saurombe and Zimu, 2015,p. 45). The uneven distribution of librariesis
a consequence of the historical imbalances of the past, based on the racial and urbanrural
divide of the apartheid regime (Nkondo et al., 2014, p. 1). Living in a non-urban setting has
both socio-economic and educational repercussions, referring to limited opportunities and
access to libraries to groom learners for tertiary education (Kaburise, 2014, p. 15). This is a
determinant of unsuccessful tertiary performance.
The paper addresses how the diffusion of technology, such as social media, affects an
individuals morale. Based on Rogerstheory on diffusion of innovations (DOI), classifying
adopters and non-adopters, this paper suggests that incorporating social media into the
academic librarys operations and services will be based on the need as prescribed by the
library. Being part of an academic university who is an adopter of social media, the library,
as a non-adopter, can be classified as a late adopter. The study addresses the following
research questions (RQs):
RQ1. What are the factors that hinder the social media adoption process?
RQ2. What effect does non-adoption of social media have on employee morale?
This study concentrates on low employee morale as well as internal environmental factors
likely to discourage innovation. Nelson (2014, p. 78) notes that time and money invested in
the professional development of each employee are reliable ways to improve work
performance, employee morale and the status of the library on campus.
Diffusion of innovations (DOI) theory
Althoughadopters of social media, Facebookand Twitter, UL prohibitsthe use thereof during
core business hours. These platforms are managed by the Marketing and Communication
Department butdue to the ban on social media, the department investedin WiFi connectivity
to disseminate information. Moodley et al. (2015, p. 80) look at best practice for blended
learning, incorporating social media, at a rural university. They identified barriers such as
poor internet connectivity and lack of computers which are exclusive challenges to a rural
environment.Furthermore, in this study, the banon social media is a result of low bandwidth
and misuse of socialmedia for non-academic purpose. The views of academic librariansare to
Social media,
DOI, morale
and digital

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT