Along with some CyMAL colleagues I recently attended the annual feedback seminar for the Welsh Public Library Standards (WPLS). Since 2002 the services of Welsh public libraries have been monitored and evaluated through the framework of the standards, with each framework lasting three years. Each framework can be found on the CyMAL website.
The seminar day included discussion on the performance of the previous year (2010-11), a review of the full three year framework (2008-11), and discussion on the new framework that has been in place since April 2011. It was really good to see representatives from all 22 local authorities in Wales: generally the head librarians value the standards and find them useful for planning, monitoring and improving library services, having some way of interpreting the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 and recently to try to help prevent excessive budget cuts of the library service.
The analysis* of the last three years provided some very interesting findings. It appears that spending on staffing and materials is crucial in influencing how well a library service does overall in the standards. Well that’s obvious, you say. Possibly, but there were also additional qualifiers and deeper analysis that showed a more complex picture. It was agreed that social, economic and geographical factors can also play a part in how well a library service does in the standards, as well as the ‘culture’ of the local authority. The standards may not be a perfect model, but they do provide a good set of indicators.
As you may know, public library services in England do not have any performance measurement toolkits in place whereas in Scotland SLIC has the Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix. In other library sectors there are a variety of benchmarking toolkits such as the one for FE college learning resource centres in Wales, or the self-evaluation toolkit for FE colleges in Scotland and CILIP has a list of evaluating performance for FE colleges here. Many higher education libraries use LibQUAL which is an international survey of library services.
Although the fourth framework has just got underway in Wales, colleagues are tentatively planning for what follows in 2014. What performance measurement methods are you aware of that you think deserve further consideration?
Finally, for the first time, CyMAL has made the individual annual report each local authority receives available on the CyMAL website. You can see the ones for 2010-11 performance here.
*Update – the full overall assessment of the three years (2008-11) written by an independent adviser will be available on the CyMAL website shortly. The assessment report for 2005-08 is available here.