After my whinge last week about the building audit’s recommendations, I am back with yet another document to complain about this week! (aren’t I great?) It’s not really a complain thing, more of a comparison thing I guess.

Living Learning Libraries: Standards and Guidelines for NSW Libraries was released recently and is now available from the State Library of NSW website. The report provides target figures for different areas of libraries, including membership per capita, opening hours per capita (or per number of branches), number of internet terminals, number of programs run, etc. It gives 3 levels of figures; a baseline figure (all libraries should meet this); an enhanced figure (you’re a good library if you meet this) and; an exemplary figure (you’re a brilliant library if you meet this).

What is interesting about this document is that it provides you with an ‘out’ clause for each of the target figures. For example, if you have 4-7 library branches then you should have a total opening hours per week of at least 238 hours (we have 5 libraries and 242 so yay to us). It says that this number may vary depending on staff numbers, the location of other community services, the structure (ie central library + mobile libraries) and the size of each library and the communities surrounding them.

I had a look at some of the different targets and compared my library service’s performance against them. I even followed the definitions they provided (ie an active borrower in Victoria is someone who has used the library in the last 3 years, in NSW it says 2 years). It turns out we’re a tad (actually a lot) under their benchmarks in a few area but that we rock in terms of internet access and program numbers. One of our main problems is that we have a very large populace with very low literacy and mobility. Also, our residents are quite transient and will often move to our area from overseas and then find work (and better living conditions) elsewhere so they’ll move there. Many don’t stay long, they are just there to bolster numbers.

Part B of the document refers to guidelines which libraries should follow in order to implement the standard targets. An interesting guideline was that it recommended the Library Manager be “an appropriately qualified librarian”. I don’t actually believe that we actually need a librarian to run the library service, especially in an environment where you have qualified librarians managing the librariany stuff. Running a library service is very similar to running any other kind of business, the only difference is that we don’t make a profit and that we share information with anyone who asks for it (instead of trying to steal it from our competitors).

One of the guidelines that I understand (but find frustrating) is the guideline saying ‘Based on knowledge of particular cultural needs and trends, a collection exists for a particular language when there are 500 residents speaking that language as their major language at home’. Lucky for us (with our 18 languages) we collect in a lot of languages. Unlucky for us, there are 26 languages with more than 500 speakers in our area. Some of these (ie Dinka and Samoan) have so few items published in them that there is no way we could support a collection even if we wanted to. Others (such as German and Spanish) are either leaving the area or dying off. That being said, our council area has 151 different languages spoken at home so I think we’re doing well to collect in 18 of them.

The guidelines also refer to People Places, the document I complained about last week (it was the one that our building audit referred to when criticising our collection space in libraries). I actually found a copy of it online (click here to view) which, one day, I may read.

Standards, guidelines and recommendations

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