March 5, 2012
Public Library Standards
The Minister for libraries has said that the Government won't set standards for the public library service, and despite years of being told that they should, councils haven't set standards either. So here are some that could and should be used
1. Every library should have more books available than it did this time last year
2. Every library should be open longer hours than it was last year
3. Every library should be clean, with its windows washed and its light fittings working
4. Every public computer in a library should work properly
5. Every library should provide some private space for quiet study
Performance against these should be measured and shown not only only the library notice board but on a national website
If we adopted these standards and stuck to them, I guarantee the public library service would improve out of recognition; people would use it more, and no one would want to close a library without providing a better one nearby. In just 5 years we would have a library service that would be the envy of the world.
I know that libraries do a lot more than what is highlighted in this list- and how important those other things are. But if we measure and improve the 'core' and basic service - there is no limit to the value that libraries can bring.
If we want councils to continue to run libraries - then these measures will show everyone how well each council performs.
Posted by Perkins at March 5, 2012 6:56 AM
I can't argue with 3-5, but 1 & 2 are ridiculous. If the number of books grows year on year without proper collection management & weeding, shelves will be packed to overflowing without scope to properly display and promote stock. Furthermore, without ever increasing budgets, year on year increases in opening hours will never happen (and nor should it, we should be focusing on increasing usage of services during existing hours before pouring good money after bad by 'simply' extending opening hours in some attempt at 'service standards').
Perhaps you should take a look at Scotland, where PLQIM provides a far more comprehensive benchmark for service delivery.
Posted by: Caledonian Librarian at March 5, 2012 9:43 PM
I didn't say there shouldn't be proper collection management and weeding - why would I?
But while I don't know what PLQIM means I do notice that the use of the public library service in Scotland has gone down in every year since 2003 and - curiously - so have the number of books available within it.
Perhaps if one were to refill the empty space, which is what I sm suggesting, with books that people want to read, then the use of the library service would go up
Is it that hard to understand?
By the way the funding of the service has more or less risen with inflation - at least that's what the figures say .. unless you have some others.
Posted by: perkins at March 6, 2012 9:13 PM
PLQIM doesn't mean anything, like all the rest of the pretentious rubbish I had listen to as a librarian. The West and the youth of today really has lost its spine if anyone really thinks any of this stuff is relevant.
Posted by: James Christie at March 10, 2012 10:26 AM
If you look at the thoeries, models, methodologies for strategy formulation, etc. to be found in for example the field of IT systems and management, and compare that to library management, and in particular public library management, then I think it can be concluded that public library management as a discipline hasn't really established itself as a discipline as yet. Most of this type of work in libraries is in the academic library sector, but even that is not particularly mature compared to other fields.
Of salience at the moment is the deskilling of libraries and the automation of libraries. In the hay day of the libraries, the 60s and 70s, every library would have a qualified librarian working to raise the culture of a community through our literary heritage. 20 years later we find librarians no longer on the front line, managing groups of libraries applying strategies generic to the entire population, frontline staff, though often with many years of experience, never the less without formal training, management or librarianship likewise. More recently we have seen the introduction of self service machines and even to the extent of removing the remaining paraprofessional staff altogether - the library rendered essentially a vending machine for books. Supposing I were to argue that there are here three perfectly valid models for the public library, _but_, the decision on which one to use is a strategic decision, depending on what the library is required to achieve in the community that the library serves.
My point in writing this latter paragraph is to illustrate that there are theories of public library management, indeed a certain cat is not entirely silent on the subject, there is also a great deal of literature from the hay day of the libraries as mentioned above which needs to be brought back into the fold -- all this needs to be discussed and concluded on. There is though no public library management culture with which to do this. They could maybe start with a journal of public sector library management perhaps.
Posted by: LibraryWeb at March 11, 2012 12:02 AM
Would you say that it would be a good thing if librarians did engage more seriously in the issues about managing public libraries?
After all there is nothing to stop CILIP issuing a set of library standards and creating the means to measure individual libraries against them
In the US that is, in some places, what happens. Libraries face penalties for not meeting the requirements- there is a mechanism
Posted by: perkins at March 11, 2012 1:12 PM
All it really needs is the application of some hard common sense and an AACR2 (which, indeed, is how I fixed Corehouse), but since the 1970s (and I'd say Gareth is pretty much on the right lines although I'd put it more bluntly) librarians have been obsessing about computers, spouting florid and pretentious jargon and essentially going up their own rear ends, leaving libraries to be run by volunteers. I'd volunteer myself, and what a relief it would be not to have to put up with such twerps, only I really don't see why I should give away my hardwon knowledge (or what's left of it) for free!
Posted by: James Christie at March 11, 2012 3:27 PM