Best Value and Better Performance in Libraries

B: Putting the model into actions

B4: Finding impact and achievement indicators (or success criteria)

These should flow from the aims/objectives, which is why that stage was important. Some pointers:

  • impact is based on observable differences. Concentrate at this stage on answering the question ‘How can we tell if we are making a difference/succeeding?’ and focus on the indicators that will tell you if you are getting there
  • impact indicators must focus on effects that you are deliberately setting out to achieve and on which you have targeted resources
  • don’t be distracted by how you will gather the necessary data. This is the hardest part for most library service managers but it is important to resist the normal managerial tendency to consider the ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions together. If you lose the distinction you will probably slide into output indicators because these are easier to collect. Once you decide that it is important to assess impact you will probably be able to find some way of gathering evidence that ‘bears on’ what you are trying to achieve. We will look at data collection below
  • it should be possible to find two or three indicators of whether you are having an impact in relation to each aim or objective. Performance indicators will come later!
  • you may find it useful to think about the different target audiences you want to affect.
    • For public library services these might include: different sorts of individuals (e.g. children, teenagers, parents and children together, single parents and their children, old people, unemployed people), local groups and associations, local ethnic communities, the local authority and local businesses.
    • For schools library services these could include: school heads, subject departments, teachers, pupils; pre-school parents, children and groups; LEA education officers, advisors/inspectors and elected members
  • it may be easier to assess impact at some levels than at others: for example, if an SLS provides training and advice it should be possible to collect some evidence of any change in teacher awareness and behaviour; it would be much harder to demonstrate any impact on pupils
  • it is difficult to measure intangible benefits (e.g. enriching people’s lives, personal development, community empowerment). It should be possible, though, to gather views systematically to assess whether and how aspects of the service are making a difference
  • some services (such as North Lincolnshire10) group their indicators by the strategic, operational or service level at which they are applied (e.g. specific service points; organisation-wide). You may like to use this as a checking mechanism to ensure that all the indicators are not clustered at one level – after you have identified your indicators.

An important issue here is how many impact indicators you need and how to choose the key areas. Showing that you can develop impact indicators in relation to service aims/objectives can leave you open to the charge within the Best Value review process, that you are not challenging aspects of your service when you have the wherewithal to do so. If you have consulted over aims/objectives and prioritised accordingly, it is reasonable to confine your impact targets to high priority aims (and, by inference, to rely on existing performance indicators to monitor other areas).

Before you start to compile your own indicators, you may like to revisit section A2.2 ‘Performance and other indicators’.

Some examples of impact/achievement indicators:

  • Public library services
  • Perceptions of equity in treatment /resource provision/accessibility
  • Take-up of services in community libraries by 16-25 year olds
  • Proportion of people who have developed confidence/skills in using ICT in the library
  • Proportion of people not previously taking up learning opportunities using ICT in the library to participate in lifelong learning
  • Proportion of users of open learning programmes progressing to other forms of learning
  • Proportion of library users satisfied with the range of materials available
  • Schools library services
  • Reduced dependence on reading schemes or on a limited range of authors
  • Range of resources used by teachers during literacy/numeracy hours
  • Range of resources available in small schools
  • Ability of schools to provide appropriate reading material to pupils with special educational need/ethnic minority pupils
  • Ability of pupils to find books in school that meet their interests and needs
  • Efficient management of learning resources in school
  • Proportion of schools implementing SLS advice
  • Pupils’ attitudes towards librarians/libraries/resources/reading
  • Proportion of teachers satisfied with ICT support by the school library
  • Local authority policies/strategies express clear understanding of the role of the SLS, libraries, resources
  • Level of teacher awareness of curriculum-related resources
  • Level of teacher awareness of strategies for using non-fiction resources in the classroom

10. NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL Managing performance: a practical handbook 1998