The Strategic Management Practices in Academic Libraries in Kenya: The Case of USIU Library.

Author:Gichohi, Paul Maku


Advances in telecommunications, new techniques in information and knowledge management have facilitated the rapid transformation of data, information and knowledge into digital form, while leaps in fiber optical communication, wireless technology and software development have aided the provision of powerful new methods of information (Lawrence & Averil, 2002). This scenario has forced many organizations to re-examine their strategies in the last decade (Abraham and Leavy, 2007), and libraries are not exceptional.

It is evident that for the past few years, academic libraries have been operating in a high-velocity environment where information demand, competition, technology, access and copyright issues are constantly changing. However, there has been little systematic empirical research focusing on how academic libraries should strategically respond in order to remain relevant. Pearce and Robinson (2007) observed the need for managers and policy makers in organizations to understand how to react to changes in the environment. Globally, academic libraries have been seeking to sustain competitive competencies in the changing environment. Macmillan and Carlisle (2007) advocated for adoption of a management approach that interacts with their internal and external models of change and embracement of creativity and innovation in order to change at least as fast as consumer expectations. Chakravarthy and Lorange (2007:2) quoted the CEO of Nestle where he had said "to maintain leadership position, firms need to leapfrog, move faster and go beyond what consumers will tell". The adoption of strategic management practices and systems in organizations is therefore critical.

The Nature of Strategic Management Practices in Academic Libraries

Strategic management is defined as the art and science of formulating, implementing, and evaluating cross-functional decisions that enable an organization to achieve its objectives and adapt in the environment (Ward & Peppard 2002). Genus (1995) said that strategic management focuses on integrating all organizational activities for the purpose of achieving organizational success. Pearce and Robinson (2007) views strategic management as the process of specifying an organization's objectives, developing policies and plans to achieve those objectives, and allocating resources so as to implement the plans. They describe it as the highest level of managerial activity that is usually performed by the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and corporate team to provide overall direction to the whole organization.

Abraham and Leavy (2007) argued that the success of theories, concepts and tools in the practice of strategic management is exhibited in careful analysis of industry and competitive conditions, behavior and how managers tackle the task of crafting and executing strategies as opposed to using high powered quantitative techniques. As the pace of change accelerates, Pearce and Robinson (2007) observed that the nature of strategy planning work has shifted from emphasizing analysis and forecasting to communication, co-ordination, and control. This study has noted that library services have evolved over the course of time, and little thought has been given to what strategies might be employed. Many academic libraries are also not certain of underlying implications. Riggs, (2005) said that changes are evolving and being implemented rapidly without forethought. Many academic libraries lack preparedness for this shift. Many are also in dilemma of how they should reform the management process, systems and practices in order to cope (Beinhocker & Kaplan 2006).

Moreover, many academic libraries in Kenya lack clear alignment of their mission and facilities to the emerging trends. Also warranting is the strategic behavior in respect to mushrooming shifts in information seeking behaviors of users. More recent research on usage of electronic resources indicated that a rapidly growing percentage of the use of electronic library resources occurs outside of the library. A study by Tenopir (2003) concluded that students would rarely go to the library to retrieve electronic resources using obsolete equipment when their own computers are faster, better equipped to handle multimedia and loaded with all software they need to complete their assignments.

Challenges in Strategic Information Management

Published studies reveal little empirical work which seeks to explore and understand the underlying challenges in strategic information and knowledge management. Moreover, there has been little systematic empirical research focusing on competitive strategizing and library's management model appropriate for the changing environment. Many academic libraries are limited by management model which are occasionally characterized by bureaucratic processes and top-down decision making, concentration of power at the top and deafness to foreign ideas (Corrall, 2005). Allio (2008) argued that the standard management model that served the industry for most of last century is no longer best suited to meet the demands of greater technological innovation and subsequent adaptability necessary for a library to survive and thrive in the rapidly evolving competitive information industry. This study aimed to establish the managerial practices, model, system and strategic behavior in academic libraries in order to enhance employee creativity and innovation necessary for coping with complexity in the changing environment.

At United States International University (USIU), the overall strategic management process is usually initiated and coordinated by the director of institutional planning and development. Heads of functional units such as the library are hence expected to involve their staff in the process. The execution and evaluation is also expected to be a joint effort of all stakeholders. This study found the need to ascertain the practice on the ground, identify the gaps and recommend appropriate measures.

Materials and Methods

A descriptive survey design was used to obtain data for accurate description of strategic management practices at USIU library. The design helped to critically ascertain the strategic behaviour and systems available at USIU library. Data was collected from sixty (60) undergraduate students, fifty (50) postgraduate students, (30) members of teaching staff and twenty two (22) library staff through questionnaires where stratified sampling technique was used for both students and teaching staff while census was used for library staff. The likert-scale questions in the questionnaires were used to establish various perceptions sought from respondents. Collected data was analysed by use of SPSS, excel and use of thematic technique for open-ended questions. Descriptive statistics mainly mean, mode, frequencies, and percentages were used for quantitative data. Chi-square was used for multiple likert questions to establish significance of the results in selected areas. The analysed information was presented in a descriptive format with support of frequency tabulation, charts and in other instances descriptive statements have been used.


The overall response rate of the study was 74 percent.

The high response rate was instrumental in making meaningful conclusion of this study.

Technology Awareness in Libraries

There is a moderate level of awareness of technologies used in libraries. Analyzed data gave a mean awareness of 2.96 out of five which represent 59.2% awareness.

There is a moderate positive correlation between the different clients of library and general awareness of different technologies used in academic libraries.

This indicates that the level of awareness varies with year of study among the students.

According to factor analysis tables below, technology awareness in the library yielded eigen value of 3.778 and loaded significantly on one component as shown below.

Table 3: Communalities and Components Extraction on Technologies in Libraries No. Technologies in Libraries Initial Extraction 1. Storage devices 1.000 .535 2. Identification technology 1.000 .581 3. Electronic Databases 1.000 .395 4. Institutional Digital Library software 1.000 .629 5. Library information management 1.000 .582 6. Networking technologies 1.000 .646 7. Library Web 2.0 1.000 .410 No. Technologies in Libraries Component Matrix on Technologies in Libraries; Component = 1 1. Storage devices .731 2. Identification technology .762 3. Electronic Databases .628 4. Institutional Digital Library software .793 5. Library information management .763 6. Networking technologies .803 7. Library Web 2.0 .640 Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. 1 component extracted Table 4: Total Variance Explained on Technologies in Libraries Initial Eigen values Component Total % of Variance Cumulative % 1. 3.778 53.968 53.968 2. .923 13.193 67.161 3. .595 8.500 75.660 4. .556 7.939 83.599 5. .433 6.185 89.785 6. .397 5.667 95.451 7. .318 4.549 100.000 Extraction Sums of Squared Loadings Component Total % of Variance Cumulative % 1. 3.778 53.968 53.968 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. This indicates that there is advance use of technologies and its impacts are significantly affecting academic libraries. There is also moderate level of awareness on paradigm shifts which have been occasioned by adoption of ICT in libraries. Analyzed data gave slightly high percentage awareness (65%).

Shift on the Role of a Librarian during Digital Era

The wide use of ICT and digitization of information has caused a tremendous shift on the role of a librarian. An overwhelming number of library users are increasingly aware of these shifts. Analyzed data indicated seventy six percent (76%) of total respondents agreed to the new roles of a librarian in digital era. Figure 2 below provide ranking of new roles of a librarian during digital era.

Fig 2: Users' ranking on the New Roles of a Librarian...

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