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Best Practices in Connecticut Public Libraries

Best Practices in Connecticut Public Libraries - Preamble

Across Connecticut, communities are using their public libraries in unique and exciting ways. From Makerspaces to Farmers’ Markets, our libraries are transforming to meet the changing needs of their communities and continuing to serve as centers of learning and knowledge creation. The Best Practices for CT Public Libraries as endorsed by the CT State Library Board has since inception, been used as an effective tool for advocacy, strategic planning, capital planning, and general library operations by libraries across the state. While the Best Practices for CT Public Libraries are endorsed by the CT State Library Board, they are not codified as "standards" and have no statutory, regulatory authority.

In 2023-24, the ACLPD Public Library Standards Committee in collaboration with the Division 
of Library Development assessed the previous Best Practice document and incorporated appropriate suggestions, revision, and additions into the document as well as continually adding and refining resources to supplement the content.

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 designed 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.

The ACLPD Committee engaged in envisioning the future of CT libraries and incorporated the
best practice of using Foresight to navigate volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity to position libraries to become more adaptive, resilient, and transformative to develop an aspirational future for the CT libraries.

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

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).

Aspen Institute Dialoge on Public Libraries

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