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Academic libraries traditionally support the learning, teaching and research activities of universities. However, academic libraries do not operate in vacuum because they are part of the broader society. The purpose of this article is to fill the research gap that exists by focusing on Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT) libraries’ challenges as a case study, in light of developments in higher education in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.
The article employs a blended method approach that draws on a survey, a focus, interviews, group literature and empirical evidence to build a case study of TUT’s libraries located within a wider knowledge system context. A purposive sample of 40 participants is drawn for this article. The sample consisted of members of TUT Executive Management Committee, the Library and Information Services Directorate, Heads of Libraries, librarians and representatives of student organisations. Data from participants at TUT is collected in a survey using an electronic questionnaire. The survey is followed by a focus group and interviews. The author uses an electronic survey questionnaire because TUT campuses are spread across four provinces. The electronic survey questionnaire relies on email addresses and it’s able to reach all participants regardless of location. Focus group and interviews are chosen to follow up on the electronic survey questionnaire. The article found that TUT’s libraries passive response to the 2015 and 2016 student disruptions stems from a poor understanding of the theoretical context of their support roles and functions.