Best Value and Better Performance in Libraries

B: Putting the model into actions

B1: Implementing the model

chart showing performance and impact indicators

It is possible for a senior management team to work through this model to the data collection stage in a one-day session (assuming that they work in parallel small groups for part of the time), but this is hard going. It may be more productive to tackle the first three stages in a four-hour session and pick up the other steps later. Points to watch are:

  1. Setting out and agreeing on the aims/objectives and translating some of these into impact indicators will take much longer than you might expect (2 to 3 hours) – if it is done properly
  2. Most if not all public library services and school library services start too far down in the model (at the identification of ‘Services that contribute to delivering the aims’ – this assertion is based on looking at the first 143 accepted Annual Library Plans for England in 1999).

    Linley and Usherwood8 commented that “Even where people have sought to assess the libraries’ performance against goals the emphasis was on developing indicators of administrative effectiveness, that is of process.”

    Starting too far down results in:
    • neglect of impact indicators, since these spring from service aims not services delivered
    • consulting users and potential users about services (unproblematic and uninformative) rather than service aims/objectives (more contentious and a better basis for developing services)
  3. We recommend working down the sequence but moving ‘sideways’ to generate appropriate indicators at each of the three steps shown. The notes below follow this pattern.
  4. The ‘Four Cs’ that underpin Best Value reviews should provide a useful spur to ensure that each stage of the model is approached with rigour.
  5. It is likely that when you reach the data collection stage you will find that you don’t have ready access to baseline information on where you are now. Our experience in schools, further and higher education libraries, public library services and schools library services is that services seldom have baseline information about areas that they regard as important for development (because such data are not routinely collected to measure the efficiency of the service).
  6. It will be necessary to collect relevant baseline information to be able to set sensible targets. You will need to put systems in place that enable you to collect high quality management information more easily (e.g. activity-based costing).
  7. It should be possible to ‘pick and mix’ from these stages if you are concerned with a particular issue. However, we recommend that you look at the next stage above and below the one that you are interested in (to provide context and indicate how to move on when you are ready).

Good luck!

8. LINLEY, R. and USHERWOOD, R.C. New measures for the new library British Library Research and Innovation Centre Report 89 Centre for the Public Library in the Information Society, University of Sheffield 1998 ISBN 07123 97124