What is a good public library, and how can this be reflected in a self-improvement framework? These were the questions that Libraries Connected wanted to answer with its two-year project to scope a public library accreditation framework.
Public libraries in England, unlike museums and archives, currently are not supported by an accreditation scheme, a set of nationally agreed standards that define a high-quality library service.
In 2019, having identified a clear appetite for accreditation across the sector, Libraries Connected was awarded a grant of £128,000 by Arts Council England to investigate what an accreditation scheme might look like, and how it could work.
The project board brought together a coalition of library bodies to help inform the purpose and design of the scheme, including CILIP, the British Library, Local Government Association and The National Archives.
We commissioned Shared Intelligence to develop a draft scheme that would allow each library service to demonstrate how it:
- monitors and responds to user and community needs
- develops resources, activities, services and collections to meet these needs
- is managed, funded, staffed and resourced to meet these needs
The project ran for two years in a process of co-creation with frontline library workers, library leaders, national policy makers, and a broad spectrum of other stakeholders including library users.
The draft scheme has now been published and is available to download. Structured around the themes of People, Place, Purpose and Policy, it has been designed to measure how well library services engage with their communities, respond to local need, work in partnership with others and demonstrate inspiring leadership.
Also available is the final project report, which documents the design process, evidence and rationale behind the scheme.
Libraries Connected has now embarked on the next stage in the process: identifying a sponsoring body that can manage, assess and promote the public library accreditation scheme.