A Community Library Survey
in Western Samoa
Graham A. Wagner and Dick Bishop
In late 1983, under the terms of an agreement between the United Nations
Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the
University of the South Pacific (USP), the Institute of Education (IOE/USP),
in conjunction with the Western Samoa Public Library Service, was
contracted (among other things) to carry out an investigation on the
following: "the attitude of the community to library service and their
perception of the role of the library"2. This paper reports on a survey at
Fagamalo, Savaii, Western Samoa, in which the attitudes of a rural
community were explored to realise the above objective and to sound out the
community about opening the local junior high school library for public use.
'. This paper is taken from the "Fagamalo School/Community Library Pilot Project", a report
by Graham Wagner, Dick Bishop and Mataina Te'o first produced for the IOE in late 1987. The
authors would like to acknowledge the support of Cliff Benson, the present Director of the
Institute of Education (USP), in releasing the report for publication given the sad news that the
school/community library at Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l was completely destroyed in a hurricane last
year. It is hoped that the above report and the published papers evolving from it will enable
donors and local administrators to quickly and cost-effectively replace something that was
generally acknowledged to be a valuable school and community resource in Western Samoa,
and a model for developing countries.
2. Se e the report already mentioned for details.

Aims and objectives
The researchers were particularly interested in whether the concept of a
school/community library would find favour with the community
surrounding Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l as a new school library had been
established at the school some months prior to the survey. Working with the
Western Samoa National Librarian and the Western Samoa Education
Department, the authors needed to know if the sharing of the UNESCO-
funded library resources at the school was a viable option for the
community. The interview survey described in this paper is an attempt, to
not only meet the requirements of the UNESCO contract, but to determine
whether the community and the school would accept that a school library
could meet the general library needs of the community.
After consulting colleagues familiar with questionnaire surveys in developing
countries, it was decided by the authors that a semi-structured bilingual
questionnaire administered by local people should be used to realise the
above objectives. The questionnaire was first written in English then
translated into Samoan and checked again by back-translating into English.
The translation work was carried out by a local academic staff member of
the USP in Apia, Western Samoa. A section of the questionnaire is attached
as Appendix A. The full questionnaire is contained in the previously
mentioned report.
Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l, the school which housed the school/community
library, is located in the village/district of Fagamalo on the North side of the
island of Savaii in Western Samoa. In order to be a representative survey
it was agreed that as many people as possible from the surrounding villages
should be sampled. Therefore, after consultation with the teacher at Itu-o-
Tane JHS No.l, all main villages between Samalaeulu in the south-east of

Fagamalo to Sapunae in the north-west were included in the survey. In all,
nine separate villages were visited by interviewers.
In each village, interviewers tried to involve equal numbers of males and
females from four major age groups. They were asked to select equal
numbers from those above 40 years, those between 30 and 40 years, those
between 20 and 30 years, and some under 20 years. Attempts were made
to achieve a balance between educated and non-educated people.
There were about 5,000 people in the region being surveyed but, because of
the time that it took to interview, it was only possible to include about 10
people from each village. This meant that overall, 103 questionnaires were
issued. Some interviewers were more successful than others in meeting their
quota in the time allocated for the survey.
Because English was not widely understood among the older community
being surveyed, bilingual interviewers were canvassed from the Itu-o-Tane
JHS No. 1 staff who all agreed to conduct the interviews when approached.
They were chosen as the most suitable group on the grounds that they had
some familiarity with questionnaires of this kind and also had experience in
parent interviewing by virtue of their jobs. Furthermore, they were
respected members of the community and could gain access to most homes.
The 10 staff involved were all Western Samoa nationals with the exception
of one American Peace Corps teacher who interviewed some of the English
speaking members in the local village.
The interviews were conducted over a period of two evenings in nine
different villages throughout the region. Any longer would have meant that
collusion (innocent though it might have been) would have compromised the
results. Interviewers were first briefed on the task in hand and asked to
make certain that they received the genuine personal responses of the
interviewees. By all accounts, the interviews went according to plan,
although there is no real way of knowing how personal the responses were
given the communal lifestyle and the close proximity of other people in the
fales when interviewing was taking place.

An in-depth interview schedule was chosen because it allowed the
interviewers to probe people's attitudes to libraries in general. A written
questionnaire was rejected because of the oral nature of discourse in the
The questionnaire was made up of 29 separate sections split into two major
parts. The first part covered libraries and sought to find out whether
respondents were familiar with the notion of libraries and what they offered
the individual and the community. Specific questions were directed to how
libraries might serve the local community and how they might operate if
introduced into the district. The second section was on books and the
questions they sought to determine the respondents' knowledge of books and
attitudes towards a written literature. An attempt was also made to gain an
impression of reading habits and reading preferences of the community at
Some of the questions were forced choices, while the remainder were open-
ended thus allowing a wide selection of responses. At the very beginning,
there was a section for the interviewer to put down the name of the person,
their sex, their age and their occupation.
The questionnaire was, in most cases, administered in private and took at
least 20 minutes up to, in one case, three hours. Interviewers or
interviewees had the choice of using English or Samoan to fill in the
questionnaire. Nearly half chose to conduct the interview in Samoan. This
meant that upon return to the USP the questionnaires had to be translated
into English. To undertake this task, a Western Samoa native speaker,
selected by Professor Albert Wendt (then Head of the School of Humanities,
USP), was commissioned to perform the translations prior to categorizing
and coding responses. When the questionnaires were completed, they were
returned to the first author who undertook the analysis and interpretations of
the summarized data.

Procedure for administering the questionnaire
Interviewers were asked to take about 10 questionnaires and over a period
of two evenings visit the homes of a representative sample of the community
in surrounding villages. They were requested to see if they could speak in
private to a householder or family member and sit with them for about an
hour. During this time questions were asked in either English or Samoan
and the responses recorded likewise. Most of the interviewing took place
in the home and in most cases would have been witnessed by other members
of the family. In some cases the family members would have joined in but
this was not seen as an extraneous influence given the close family ties that
are a feature of Polynesian cultures.
Data Analysis
When all the questionnaires were completed they were collected up and
taken back to the Institute of Education, USP. There the information was
analyzed and coded by a research assistant under the direction of the first
author. The results were tabulated and reported as percentages in tables or
figures which are given in full in the report mentioned previously. All work
was checked carefully before inclusion in the final report as was the case for
this paper.
Because age and teachers' occupation biases appeared to feature prominently
in the survey results it was necessary to run significance tests on all tabled
data to see if there was a detectable bias or not. In only one instance was
such a difference found and this is mentioned in the body of the text.
To aid the reader most table differences are couched in percentages
alongside column totals. In some cases a bar graph has been used to make
a particular point more prominent.
Response rale
There was a good response rate for this survey. In all, 103 questionnaires
were issued to interviewers, with 82 returned as completed. This gave a

satisfactory 79.6 percent overall response rate as shown in Figure 0.
103 Questionnaires Issued
to Interviewers
82 Questionnaires 21 Questionnaires
completed outstanding
(79.6%) (20.4%)
Figure 0: Response Rate
In round figures, eight out of every 10 people targeted for the survey were
interviewed. However, as reported earlier, two interviewers had some
difficulty meeting their quotas, whereas one interviewer managed to achieve
more than his quota suggesting that there were some interviewer differences
which could have lowered the return rate. In general, the overall response-
rate was high for a survey of this kind.
Respondent characteristics
Gender - The breakdown into the sex of the respondents showed males
(49%) and females (51%) were almost equal. In other words we can say
that the sample did not have a significant bias in this respect.
Age - There is an age bias with just slightly over half of the respondents in
the 20 to 29 year age group.
The reason given to the researchers for so many young adult respondents is
that the school teachers at Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l found their own age group
the most accessible and approachable. This bias is a consequence of having
to use educated young school teachers proficient in English and Samoan to
do the interviewing. Yet, it is not an unreasonable bias as these are the ones
who had the most to gain in the long-run from a school/communnity library
in their district.

Occupations - the largest single group (36%) are school teachers. This is a
far more serious bias as teachers, one might suspect, would be strongly
against opening their school library to the community at large3.
Table 1
Occupations of Respondents
Occupation No. %
Domestic Worker
District Nurse
Store Keeper
Postal Clerk
Youth Students
82 100
Having identified possible biases in the sample it remained to be seen how
these biases influenced the results by comparing age and occupation in cross
tabulation checks. This technique allowed for a statistical test of
significance to be used to assess whether the differences were significant or
not. In cross-tabulations of this kind the chi-square statistic was judged the
. It is not uncommon, when visiting schools in Pacific Islands, to discover the only library
books in the school locked away in a teacher's office for "safe-keeping". This is because there
is a great respect by teachers for books, as such, mainly because they are hard to come by and
deteriorate rapidly through heavy handling in a tropical climate.

most appropriate way of identifying an important difference of opinion
between two groups. However, in brief, there were no age-related
differences and only one teacher-related one, which is mentioned in this
Meaning of the Library
When asked to explain what a library was, most of the respondents had
some idea. However, less than half (41%) gave what might be called an
accurate definition of a library with an acknowledgement that it is a place
where one can principally acquire information from books and other reading
When next asked "What do you think a library should do for the
community?" slightly more than half (54%) saw the library principally as a
place where knowledge/information is provided for public use. The main
difference between this and the previous question is that some respondents
saw the library as more than a place to borrow books, but as a place to be
taught in as well.
In response to another question on whether respondents had been into a
library, it appeared that all but one person in the sample had done so. This
is not surprising for everyone leaving the island of Savaii would go through
Saleologa where the national library has provided, with Japanese aid, an
excellent library facility. Similarly, everyone visiting Apia would be aware
of another excellent library resource in the form of the National Library in
the nation's capital. For example, most respondents (70%) claimed to have
visited the Apia library with a lesser number (40%) having visited the
Saleologa library4. All in all then, it appears that approximately three
quarters of the respondents had been into at least one of the government run
. Fagamalo is on the other side of Savaii from Saleologa. The two centres ate a considerable
distance apart therefore visiting the Saleologa library would not be that easy.

In exploring the reasons why people might go into libraries, it was
discovered that the largest group of respondents (55%) did this to read books
and look at other visual reading aids such as maps and posters, while some
(37%) went there to read "lighter" materials such as newspapers and
magazines. Only four percent appeared not to use the library, or did not
know how to use it properly.
On the question of whether libraries are useful, an overwhelming majority
(99%) said that they were useful. There was some division about whether
a library was a place where you gained information, or a place where you
went to develop skills in reading. A few thought it was a place to read and
relax, while the one person who said that libraries were not useful did so on
the grounds that they were too expensive.
Apart from one dissenter, all other respondents (99%) were over-whelmingly
in favour of having a community library in the district.
While the desire for a community library was almost unanimous, the reasons
for having a library in the community were varied as the next table
indicates. Cost, as might be expected, stands out as the main factor.
Table 2
Why would you like a community library?
Reason No %
Costs too much to go to other libraries
29 36
To help people to get books and enjoy reading
20 25
To help people/students with their study
To help community with reading skills
To be a community resource centre
No response
81 100

Most people (51%) thought community libraries should be run by a specially
trained person. Some (15%) thought that the person who ran the library
should be an honest and co-operative educated person, while others (15%)
thought that if it was a school-based library then the teachers and the
Education Department should run it The remainder (19%) had a range of
differing ideas which included the government, matais, pastor, USP, the
community, and in one case "Someone knowledgeable in History".
When it came to a question of who should pay the librarian, about two-
thirds (68%) were of the opinion that it should be the government or the
Education Department, while only about one-fifth (19%) believed that the
district or the community should be held responsible. Some (7%) thought
that the USP should provide the funds.
On the physical location of the community library, opinion was evenly split
for the majority (52%) over the principle of general accessibility; whether
the library should be in every district or at a central locality. The next
biggest group (30%) thought Fagamalo or specifically Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l
would be the best locality. Finally, some (18%) thought that outlying
villages would be a suitable location.
Table 3
Where should a community library be placed?
Locality No. %
In each District
Middle of Community/Central place
Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l
Other places (seven different (villages)
Total 82 100

Teachers did not hold strongly to the opinion that it should be placed in Itu-
o-Tane JHS No.l (7%), while a greater number of others in the community
preferred it there (17%). When the categories of this table were collapsed
to provide a comparison among teachers and others on whether the library
should be placed in the region/district, in Fagamaio or in one of the villages,
teachers were inclined to opt for the region/district (69% versus 41%) while
just over a third of the others favoured Fagamaio (36% versus 21%). This
difference was bordering on significance at the .05 level (p = .57) but
probably reflects the allegiance that the teachers in the sample showed for
their own/home villages.
Library organization and administration
Nearly two-thirds (60%) of the responses to the question "What type of
books should be in a community library?" opted for non-fiction as can be
seen in Table 4.
Table 4
What type of books should be in a community library?
Type of Books Multiple Responses No.
Non-fiction, reference, true-life
Samoan myths & legends, history
stories, culture
Any type of book
Religious books
Children's books
Love stories
No response

When this table was analyzed further in terms of the range of reading
opportunities a library should offer it is clear to see that those respondents
who would use a library would do so for the wide range of reading materials
that it made available.
To see whether respondents believed that library books should be borrowed,
or not, the following question was asked: "Where should library books be
read?" An almost unanimous number (99%) agreed that library books
should be read at home thus supporting the idea of borrowing books.
However, a surprising minority (30%), were of the opinion that books
should not be read in the library and one respondent (who happened to be
a teacher) thought that library books should only be read in the library.
The survey showed that respondents as a whole (83%) preferred library
books to be borrowed for a period of up to 14 days. There were few people
(10%) who believed that books should be borrowed for longer than 21 days.
About two-thirds (67%) of the people who responded to the survey thought
that the traditional method of lending books by recording and date-stamping
should be the preferred method of issue. Other suggestions such as date
stamping alone, paying money to borrow books, having no rules about
borrowing and other similar suggestions were not strongly supported.
All respondents indicated that care should be taken of borrowed books and
if the books were damaged then nearly half (49%) said that the borrowers
should pay for the value of the books. However, nearly a quarter (23%)
said that the borrowers should just pay for the damage, while the same
number said that the borrowers should pay a fee or a fine. Four people (or
5%) indicated that any damage to library books should lead to borrowers
being banned from borrowing.
The perceptions of teachers regarding the extra curricula uses of the
community library are worth noting here for their views departed
significantly from the other respondents.

Teachers, for example, were more likely to see the library as a place to read
and study (42% versus 8%) and less a place to learn to read (3% versus
21%). It is also worth noting here that there were more Teachers than
Others who did not respond to this question (17% versus 9%). Overall,
however, there was a strong significant difference betrween Teachers and
Others (X2 = 18.52, df = 5, p = <.002) which one might speculate is due
mainly to the teachers' general belief that a library (especially a
school/community library) is more than an extension of the self-study side
of the school itself and should be kept that way.
Attitude to books
As might be expected in a broad community survey of this kind, not
everyone liked reading books. Two out of the 82 respondents were quite
negative about reading with one saying that this practice leads to "wasting
precious time that should be spent doing other useful chores". Even so the
large majority of people surveyed (98%), liked reading books.
To gauge the range of reading done by the community, the question "Do you
read many books?" was asked. Over three quarters (85%) said that they did
read many books5, while the remainder said that they did not
The respondents were then asked to estimate how many books they read per
week. Almost three quarters (73%) said that they read anything between
about 6 and 21 books over a four or five week period proving that for some
respondents more than one book was equivalent to many. A small minority
(26%) said that they did very little reading in a year or longer period.
When asked about what kinds of books they read respondents nominated a
ranking order that went from the predictable non-fiction closely followed by
fiction, to a variety of individual choices. About a quarter of the
respondents showed a firm interest in Samoan history, customs, legends and
folk tales.
'. "Many", in this sense, ranged between six books every four weeks to 21 in a fortnight,
from children's stories (e.g. Cinderella) to the more intellectually challenging ones (e.g.

To gauge some idea of the range of books that were being read by the
community at large the following question was asked: "What was the title
of the last book you read?" Close to two thirds of the respondents (65%)
reported 53 different titles, 6 percent recorded a common title, 5 percent
recorded a newspaper (i.e. the Samoa Times), while 9 percent recorded the
Bible, and 17 percent did not respond to the question. The books read by
the majority were primarily fiction ranging from children's stories (e.g.
Cinderella) to the more intellectually challenging ones (e.g. Shakespeare).
On the question of the availability of reading books, just over two thirds
(69%) said that they did not have enough books to read.
Of those who did not have enough books to read, the majority (54%)
acquired their books from a library or friends. The remainder said that they
acquired their books from the book store, or other unidentified sources,
except for four who did not indicate where they obtained their books.
It is clear from responses to the question, "Who else reads your books?",
that the books most people (79%) have access to are read by a variety of
people associated with the reader's family or friends (79%). Yet one does
not get the impression that literature in book form is widely available in the
average home. From the next question on the availability of books in the
home, it is clear that the number of books in the average home in the
Fagamalo region (54% of the sample for this study) ranges anywhere
between 1 and 15. Another group in the sample (27%) claimed they had
between 16 and 100 books in their home. Of the remainder, most were
either vague about the actual number of books they had, or did not respond
to the question. It is worth noting for the record, that some (11) admitted
that they had no books in their homes.
General reading habits
When asked where most of the reading was done, eight out of ten
respondents (81%) said that it was done at home. Furthermore, most
respondents reported that they read both newspapers and magazines (90%),
preferred to read these in their spare or leisure time (44%), or in some cases
at night-time (24%), with the remainder indicating no preferred time.

When asked how often respondents read magazines and newspapers, it
appeared that the majority (42%) read them infrequently, while nearly one
third (30%) said they read them once a week and the others either never
(2%) or anywhere between twice a week (16%) and every day (6%). Three
people (4%) did not respond to this question.
Preferred reading language
Most people (76%) consider themselves bilingual to the extent that they
regularly read in both Samoan and English, or mainly in English. Even so
almost one quarter (23%) preferred to read just in Samoan.
When asked what language most library books should be written in, the
surprising result is a swing from preferred language to the realisation that
English is necessary as a study language. Even so, it should be noted that
slightly over 50% of those surveyed appear to want some Samoan language
books in their libraries.
Community library survey
The teachers at Itu-o-Tane were interested in the community library survey
and agreed to help interview adults in surrounding villages. They wanted
to know whether people in the community would come to the school rather
than use a branch of the public library service on the other side of the
island. Analysis of the survey results showed that the community were, by
and large, familiar with the benefits of a library, wanted a community library
close at hand, were not too keen on paying for the library, recognised the
job of librarian as a specialized one, differed over where a library should be
located, and were divided over what other uses there should be for a
community library.
Looking at the matters of the availability of reading materials and the
attitudes towards reading among respondents the general impression is one
of widespread interest but few books or other reading materials. Although
most read in both Samoan and English, as might be expected a majority (in

this case just over half) wanted some Samoan books in their local library.
This was in addition to acknowledging the importance of English as a
language of study.
There was a contradiction in the responses, when it came to what
respondents said they read, compared with the availability of reading
material. It may have been that the former response was a liberal
interpretation of reading which included all kinds of reading material while
the latter response was confined more to library books as such. Both
questions specifically asked about books.
Although age could have influenced the results, upon investigation there was
no evidence of this. However, when it was discovered that the largest single
occupational group were teachers, the results of the survey were cross-
tabulated to see if the teachers had biased the results in some way.
Statistically there was only one difference of any magnitude which showed
a teacher bias and that related to what other purposes the library should be
used for. As might be expected the teachers had a fixed teacher/ learner-
centred view of the library while the non-teacher group tended to see the
library as a community resource with flexible uses.
It is not surprising that teachers should feature so prominently in the survey
as school teaching is a major occupation in the highly populated rural areas
around Fagamalo. What is surprising is that the teachers' views on most
aspects of the survey were very similar to their non-teaching counterparts.
This could be because there is a generally accepted view-point in most
Pacific Island communities that emanates down from community matai
(leaders) or elders. Although there are obvious differences of opinion on
just about all questions in the survey, the general consensus is remarkably
uniform in most areas even overcoming occupational and specialist training.
To the researchers the important information that this survey provided is the
knowledge that the community would accept and use a community library
even if it were based at Itu-o-Tane JHS No.l. Furthermore, the survey
showed that respondents in general knew enough about a library and what

it offered the community to indicate that they would support it and could
benefit from this kind of community resource even if the books were mainly
in English. Nevertheless, there was an indication that the community
expected some Samoan books to be placed on library shelves.
The survey has provided a solid base of information for the researchers, the
Western Samoa National Librarian, the Western Samoa Education
Department, and the local school's librarian about the Fagamalo region's
library needs. It did not give a clear picture of how a community library
should be run, although it was recognized that the librarian had to be a
specialist (trained) person. There is no doubt that two out of every three
respondents saw the community library as a Government/Education
Department function. On the other hand, about one in five admitted that the
district or community should be responsible for the support and maintenance
of the library. In other words, the survey reported here supported the then
current plan to turn the new school library at Fagamalo into a
school/community library at the first convenient opportunity.
Footnote: Principally on the basis of this survey the school library at Itu-o-Tane
JHS No.l was opened to the local community in early January 1985.

Introduct ion:
0 lo o taunufai nei le Vaega Faapitoa mo Aoaoga o le Iunivesite o \\e
Pasefika i Sauce e suesue po o a ni manatu o tagata lautele e faatat.m i
faletusi. £ i ai nai fesili nei e manaomia ai ni ou manatu po o le a $e
aoga o ae faletusi mo tagata lautele, aemaiae o ni ou manatu faatatou i
tusi faitau. E le o ae suega lenei. E leai ni t a l i e sa'o pe SPSC. f>
le autu c lenei taumafaiga o le fia iloa lea po o a ni ou manatu faafatnu
L tie faletusi ma soo se tuai faitau.
The IriAtitiitl oi Education [at the. UnivVuity o( the South F a c i l e ) ii coi*ti
out a hiiAvty o{ what pe.ople, in tkt community think about iibiaAizi. Can 1 a
Ijou a {w question* about what you think about the value, oj a (ihiaiy i» yon
community and what you think o{ books in gznfial. Th<A i& not a llic
no •'tight oi wtong anaueti. What we. would U-kl h*.om yon ii, *o ice trhn* urn i
think about a community tibiafiy and Heading boonj>.
Faimatala mai i ni ati lava upu po o le a lea mea o le faletti
Using noun own loehdi would you describe what a libiaiy ii1
E te manatu o a ni aoga O se faletusi mo tagata lautele?
What do you think a tibiaty should do ^oi the conmnriiy?
Ui e oo i tocor.u o se faletusi? Ioe/Leai
Have, you been -into a libnaAy? Vti/Uo.
Mai o le Toe, i fea? (0 fea?)
Ij ye*, whent?
0 a ni mea e te manatu e mana i ae faletusi?
What would yea to iind in a tibiaAy?
(Afai e atagia * le silafia e Lea tagata rtl nea a raaua i ae f a l e t u s i ,
tan 1 ai o 1« fale tea e naua al tuai faitau wo le maatalu lautele, a ia
tuai al 1 le f e s i l i
e 4 o lo o 1 lug* ia upu - B le i l o a )
(Ml: M tht pfaon ctzaxly dot* net know thin ttll thtn'it* a place that
book* ate hild fa* ttndina but tntfi Votin't Know in 4 abovt.)