New standards for Welsh public libraries
A new set of library standards for Welsh public libraries has just been produced, following two projects carried out in LISU and the Centre for Information Management on appraising the options, and developing the standards themselves.
The public library service in Wales is governed by the same 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act as in England, with the same requirement on local authorities to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. Having standards not only helps the Welsh Minister fulfil his duty to “superintend and promote” the public library service, as outlined in the Act, but also provide guidance to local authorities as to their duties to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service under the same Act.
Since standards were introduced in Wales they have helped create greater consistency of the library offer across all 22 local authorities, and have also led to service level improvements across all authorities. People can view the published annual reports on performance on the CyMAL website to see how well local authorities are currently doing.
Well-being benefits integral to new framework
The fifth quality framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2014-2017, called ‘Libraries Making a Difference‘, builds on previous frameworks but includes impact and outcome measures for the first time. Some aspects of library service provision that the new indicators are capturing are things like skills gained, health and well-being benefits and the experience of the library as inclusive place. The framework also includes more traditional indicators on matters such as provision of materials, staffing and the location of branch and mobile libraries.
The new standards are divided into four broad areas – customers and communities; access for all; learning for life; and leadership and development – and include 18 core entitlements and 16 quality indicators that fit in underneath these.
What the authorities will be reporting on
Local authorities will be asked to report annually how well they are performing on each of the core entitlements, e.g.:
- providing access to a range of services and resources to support lifelong learning, personal well-being and development and community participation;
- providing free use of the internet and computers, including Wi-Fi) and the quality indicators (e.g., the percentage of children who think that the library helps them learn and find things out; and the percentage of time allocated for use of public access computers actually taken up by users).
The new framework was prepared by Claire Creaser, Valérie Spezi and Mark Hepworth, in consultation with local authorities in Wales, CILIP Wales,the Welsh Local Government Association, and the Welsh Assembly Government. With lots of different viewpoints to consider we hope we have produced a framework that:
- reflects the breadth of what libraries provide and the benefit of using these services;
- enables local authority library services to respond to changing needs; and
- provides them with inspiration to deliver a high performing service for the benefit of their population.
Claire has gone on to chair an Expert Review of Welsh Public Libraries, looking at the proposed changes to the delivery of services from 2014 and potential sustainable future models, to ensure that the people of Wales continue to benefit from an efficient and professional public library service into the future.