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.
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:
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
On first pass through this document, you will find that you check some items in different levels in each benchmark. Once you have achieved all of the items in the Essential level for a specific benchmark, which may take some time and focused effort, then you can progress to the higher levels in that benchmark. As you track the library’s improvement, you can identify new areas on which to focus to continue the development of the library.
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).
At their meeting on Sept. 18, 2017, the State Library Board endorsed the Best Practices in Connecticut’s Public Libraries as a voluntary best practice for Connecticut public libraries and encouraged their widespread use.
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