After a 16-month research process, the independent evaluation of the Welsh libraries strategy has been published. Back in winter 2009 CyMAL commissioned Scotinform to fully evaluate the Libraries for Life strategy. Libraries for Life ran from 2008-11 with a record £10.5 million investment therefore it was important that it was evaluated fully and independently.
Having worked closely on both the strategy and then with Scotinform I’m really pleased with the publication of their findings. I’m not going to repeat their findings here as you can read a summary and the full report on the CyMAL webpages. Instead I’ll highlight some of the sections you might like to dip into depending on your interest area.
For those of you interested in user and non-user behaviour and perceptions sections 7.6 and 7.7 in the full report contain interesting information and graphs. (It is worth saying at this point that over 1305 users and non-users were involved in the surveying, as well as over 350 staff.) One of the findings that I found interesting was the high level of ‘lapsed’ users – people who formerly used libraries but no longer do so. How can we convince these people to try their library again? One way is through a range of marketing techniques, but also stating the obvious: their awareness of what’s available in libraries is naturally lower than those of users. Marketing activities of Libraries for Life and forthcoming activities will hopefully be concentrating on these sorts of issues.
Another aspect that is very interesting is the use of Social Return on Investment (SROI) as a means of assessing the wider impact the investment has had on people and society. Librarians know that libraries are a ‘good thing’ and they know all the benefits that can come from using libraries, but sometimes it’s hard to show or prove this impact or to give it a value. SROI is one way of doing this and it was applied to two of the Libraries for Life workstrands – workforce development and the capital refurbishment of public libraries programme. (SROI can not be appropriately applied to all types of activities because of the nature of its calculations.) Both strands reported very good SROI (see section 13 in the full report) figures (NB awaiting SROI network verification) of £1 to £3.12 for the workforce development and £1 to £2.79 (average) for the refurbishment programme (based on two case studies). This means, for every £1 of money invested, more was returned as social benefits. SROI hasn’t been used a lot yet in libraries, although some American libraries have experimented with it. It’s included within the recent report on economic impacts tools in museums, archives and libraries which was commissioned by ALMA-UK (of which CyMAL is a member).
So, what happens now? Well, there’s no sitting back basking in the positive findings of the report. The internal interim reports from Scotinform helped us with the planning of the next library strategy (Libraries Inspire) and that planning continues, and the report also alerted us to things that need addressing now and in the future.
The findings also contributed to the public consultation on Libraries Inspire and we hope to be publishing the Summary of Responses to that consultation by the end of July. The longer term goal is the launch of the new strategy in autumn 2011.
To end, a thank you to all the library staff, users and non-users who took part in the evaluation process – your views were very important. And thank you to Scotinform too!