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Best Practices in Connecticut Public Libraries: Home

ACLPD Public Library Standards Permanent Sub-Committee

Bob Farwell - Otis Library
Laurel Goodgion - Emeritus
Vince Juliano - ACLPD User Region 2
Dawn LaValle - Connecticut State Library
Mary Parmelee - Westport Library
Marion M. Sheehan - Canterbury Public Library
Denise Stankovics - ACLPD, ACLB
Lynn White - Terryville Public Library
Steve Cauffman - Connecticut State Library
Maria Bernier - Connecticut State Library

Aspen Institute Dialoge on Public Libraries

Best Practices in Connecticut Public Libraries - Preamble

Across Connecticut, communities are using their public libraries in unique and exciting ways. From Makerspaces and robots to Farmers’ Markets, our libraries are transforming to meet the changing needs of their communities and continuing to serve as the center of learning and knowledge creation.

The Aspen Institute describes a “new world of knowledge,” with the public library serving as a “vital learning institution and engine for individual, community, and civil society development.” While each of our communities will approach this new era differently, there are common benchmarks that can be utilized to ensure that the public library remains “the essential civil society space where this new America will make its democratic character.”

These best practices were carefully developed  to guide libraries toward 21st century practices and principles. Changes in technology, education, communication, and social connection are just a few areas to which the public, as well as libraries and policymakers, will need to respond. Advocating for our libraries requires new tools and information; we cannot simply continue with the status quo, we must make clear our need to adapt and thrive in the new information landscape.

How to Use the Best Practices

Best Practices in Connecticut Public Libraries is a tool that a library can use to evaluate its services. The best practices are not intended to be used as a comparison tool but are designed to be used for a library's self-evaluation.

Libraries can use the information gathered from completing the checklist as a springboard for discussions with their stakeholders. You can use it to show:

  1. Where the library is doing well.
  2. Where improvement is needed.
  3. How requested funds will be used to improve the quality of the library. 
  4. How you have used appropriated funds to improve service (e.g., moving the library from “Essential” to “Enhanced” in a particular area). 

1. Self-measurement

The Best Practices document provides you with a tool to evaluate your library. It can help you determine where your library is doing well and identify areas of weakness. This information can form the basis for your library’s strategic planning by identifying objectives to achieve. Some items are repeated in multiple sections because they apply to those sections.

2. Progress documentation

As the library improves in the areas which you have targeted, you will be able to document your library’s progress, perhaps moving from “Essential” status to “Enhanced” in a particular area. On first pass you will find that you will be checking some items in different levels in each benchmark. As you track the library’s improvement, you can identify new areas on which to focus to continue the development of the library. Once you have achieved all of the items in the Essential level for a specific benchmark, then you can progress to the higher levels in that benchmark.

3. Staff education

By introducing and discussing the Best Practices tool with your library staff, you will expand their understanding of the total library operation. Often staff members may be aware of how only their own area functions without understanding how it meshes with the entire library operation.  Reviewing the Best Practices document helps them to see the library as an integrated operation with each department contributing to the quality of the whole organization.

4. Board education

Library board members are interested in the library and want to be supportive, but often they don’t possess much knowledge of the elements of a library’s operation and the way to determine the level of service that the library is providing and areas where improvement is needed. The Best Practices document will help them understand how a library functions, where the library is doing well and where they can offer support to you in improving library service.

5. Budget communications tool

The Best Practices document provides you and the board with an objective and effective tool to use in communicating with the local funding authority (Board of Selectmen, Town Council and/or Board of Finance).

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