Best Value and Better Performance in Libraries

B: Putting the model into actions

B8: Process/performance indicators

B8.1 Process indicators

This is the second ‘strong area’ of library service planning as reflected in the Annual Library Plans. Process indicators (sometimes referred to rather confusingly, as ‘performance indicators’) are readily identifiable as the sorts of indicator that can be “ticked off the list when you’ve done them”. The main problem with process indicators is that they do not necessarily tell you if you are meeting the objectives that led you to carry out the process. For example, if you decide that a round of executive briefings is required to ensure that elected members and managers of partner organisations are better informed about the potential of libraries, it is easy enough to track where and when the meetings are held (performance). But how can you tell whether the messages are getting home? This will require some attention to changes in what the targeted people do and say after the events (impact) – which is why a combination of impact and process indicators is useful.

B8.2 Process benchmarking

Comparing services on the basis of their processes, process indicators and associated data can be productive – if the evidence is properly contextualised. You should not stop when you have made the comparison with another service on the basis of the benchmarking information collected.

Process benchmarking comes into its own when it is used as a basis for discussing why another service is doing things differently and which method is likely to work best in your particular circumstances. There is some danger that this comparison element can be misused in Best Value reviews and degenerate into ‘cheapest must be best’. (A brief consideration of, for example, the pros and cons of staffing small libraries entirely or partly by volunteers, will show that such comparisons are not necessarily clear-cut.)

Since the underlying idea of benchmarking entails comparison with the best in other types of service, in order to learn from their processes, it was interesting to find in our national survey that:

  • only 12% of public library services had undertaken benchmarking or other systematic comparison with services other than public library services or planned to do so this year
  • only 13% of schools library services had done or planned to do so.

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

Examples of process/performance indicators

  • Public library services
  • Stock management policy adopted
  • Workshops delivered to library staff
  • Collaborative projects undertaken
  • Schools library services
  • Annual visits to all secondary schools
  • Participate in EAZ planning session with LEA inspectors
  • Organise reading promotion events in primary schools
  • Provide reading lists to support the National Literacy Strategy