Best Value and Better Performance in Libraries

A: How library service managers can get to grips with assessing the impact of services

A5: A Review process for Best Value

We are introducing a review process for Best Value here because it complements the process we have outlined below for getting to grips with performance indicators and targets. Many local authorities are producing their own Best Value toolkits to guide services through the review process. This one is an example designed to show how Best Value and its ‘Four Cs’, assessing impact and process/performance indicators fit together. The basic review process used is from Brighton and Hove Local Authority as presented to a Library Association Executive Briefing by Alan McCarthy, their Director of Environmental Services in May 1999.

Where are we now?
(Current service profile)

  • aims and objectives
  • services
  • costs etc.
why are we providing this service? (Evidence of: need/demand; real impact; meeting government aims e.g. social inclusion, lifelong learning)
why are we providing the service in this way?

What would a high quality service look like?
(Need for lateral thinking: not bogged down in how currently operating?

  • aims and objectives and impact
  • key elements and processes
  • new services?
what should be the service aims/priorities?
what should money be spent on?

Consultation should be about building relationships and engaging people, not just asking questions via questionnaires or focus groups.

could someone else provide the service or elements of it? How? Are there better ways of achieving the aims? How else could it be done? Could we merge, share, work in partnership to deliver services?
How are others doing it? (Process or data benchmarking)

Gap analysis
(What needs to change?)

  • identify strengths and weaknesses
  • use Business Excellence Model to assess aspects of the service (e.g. leadership; staff development; customer care)
  • use benchmarking data to analyse elements of the service (e.g. stock; ICT; marketing; advice; accessibility)

Implementation plan
(Future service delivery)

How do we improve?
  • Impact indicators, PIs and targets
  • Resource deployment/redistribution to better meet needs to develop a realistic strategy for raising performance (think ‘outside the box’)


  • monitor and evaluate implementation
new services:
  • why are we providing it?
  • evidence of need?
  • impacts?
  • other ways to deliver services?

[Reithean heresy time:

A significant weakness in the Best Value review process may be that it does not take sufficient account of the expertise of professional staff who have been employed because of that expertise. There is a danger that the quality of public service provision will gradually be leeched away in the name of ‘customer awareness’ or comparison with leaner services. Consultation on the basis of partnership or ‘educating the public’ is fine in principle, but the public may not be well placed to know what a good quality service looks like – if they are prepared to settle for less should they be offered less? Lord Reith of the BBC would not have thought so!]