also the article from the
March 2000 issue of American Libraries.
J. Hennen Jr.
- February 2000
to basics is a common expression.
If public libraries are to flourish, they must move forward
to basics, not back. A
system of library standards should be established that identifies:
standards for all public libraries in America that only a very few
could not achieve,
standards that all libraries should strive for, though only some
excellence for libraries that only the very few achieve.
They will help disseminate their best practices for all to emulate.
the middle of the last century, Lowell Martin in A National Plan
for Library Service wrote: “The
first hard truth that confronts an observer of American public
libraries is that they have stopped far short of their potential.
The second is that in isolated places and in partial fashion,
they have performed an educational function this is unique and
significant.” At the
dawn of this new century, one is still hard pressed to come to any
years ago, public library leaders like Carelton Joeckl and Lowell
Marin thought nationally in their planning.
National library standards reached their zenith in the Johnson
administration. By the
Carter administration, the standards baby was thrown out with the
input bathwater. Almost
everything was re-defined in terms of output measures.
Lacking any national standards, most states began or revised
their own state standards. This
was a trend that meshed all too well with the Reagan-Bush devolution
and states rights philosophy.
wider national framework of business practices and research has
consistently influenced library planning and research.
There have been efforts at using benchmarking, total quality
management, and similar methods, especially in academic libraries, but
as John Moorman noted in the January 1997 issue of Public Libraries,
there does not appear to be much professional consensus on either
public library standards or evaluation methods.
library map of America is littered with many autonomous local
agencies with wholly inadequate buildings, untrained staff and
useless collections. Citizens
have been robbed of an invaluable educational resource.
When such agencies are allowed to be dignified with the
name of “public library,” all adequate and excellent
libraries everywhere are demeaned.
the Myths of Small Libraries.
By Thomas J. Hennen Jr. American
Libraries 17:11 (December 1986) 830-834.
Library Association Public Library Standards – A Chronology
thanks especially to: Redmond Kathleen Molz and Phyllis Dain, the
authors of: Civic
American Public Library in the Information Age. 1999.
The MIT Press. This
excellent book explores the history, present circumstances and future
prospects of American libraries. It is the source for many of the
building program ceases, but Carnegie Corporation continues
focus on research and development of public libraries.
2,509 libraries were built in the English-speaking world
with Carnegie grants.
National Resources Planning Board established by Roosevelt. Carleton
Joeckl at University of Chicago and others convince this board
to pay attention to the needs of libraries. The board grants funds to research library standards
to Joeckl. It is
noted that one third of the nation is ill-libraried as well as
ill-clothed and ill-housed and ill-fed.
Corporation was disappointed that some communities were not
adequately supporting the libraries established with gift money.
It supported Carleton Joeckel at the University of
publishes The Government of the American Public Library
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1935.
He calls for wider units of service and wider sources of
funding. This helps
to move A.L.A. in the direction of advocacy for public library
standards and federal funding for libraries.
ALA publishes its first “National Plan” for
ALA standards published jointly with the National Resources
Planning Board. Since
the 1943 publication was titled “Post-War
Standards for Public Libraries,” the authors were
clearly looking to the future.
Library Service Demonstration Bill.
that the National Resources Planning Board program was too
ambitious for a newly Republican Congress, Carl H. Milam, ALA
Executive Director, and other ALA leaders pushed a more targeted
approach to federal funds for libraries.
The name was later revised to Library Services Act.
Joeckl and Amy Winslow publish A
National Plan for Public Library Service (Chicago:
American Library Association, 1948.
Its inscription reads quotes Chicago City Planner, Daniel
Burnham: “Make no small plans for they have not the beauty to
stir our souls.”
Scientist Robert D. Leigh writes The
Public Library in the United States.
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1950) Sponsored by the Social Science Research Council at the
behest of the American Library Association and supported with
funds from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
He challenged the library community to examine its “Library
Faith;” and consider the tension between quality selection and
public demand for materials.
He defined six fields of knowledge and interest to which
the public library should devote its resource.
These are very close to the roles set in the 1987
document noted below.
enacts the Library
the first federal funds for libraries.
It is focused on rural libraries that are deemed to be
the same time, the American Library Association publishes its
new standards document: Public
Library Service (Chicago: American Library
Services and Technology Act.
Thanks to the demographic shifts in the congress
resulting from the move from rural to suburban America, the
rural focus of LSA is changed to allow buildings, city funding
and system funding. The
next issue of the standards will reflect the change.
Library Association publishes Minimum
Standards for Public Library Systems
(Chicago: American Library Association, 1966).
The standards reiterate the comment from the 1956 version
that: The introduction notes: "Libraries working together,
sharing their services and materials, can meet the full needs of
their users. This co-operative approach on the part of libraries
is the most important single recommendation of this
E. Palmour, became the chief investigator of a U.S. Office of
Education funded research project to prepare a manual for
community libraries engaged in long-range planning.
In earlier decades at Baltimore County Library System, he
and others had pushed the “give them what they want theory”
of book selection and services.
publishes Vernon Palmour’s “A
Planning Process for Public Libraries.”
This volume marked the abandonment of standards in
favor of planning for outputs. The
decade-long endeavor of the Public Library Association to revise
the 1966 public library standards came to a close.
and Role Setting for Public Libraries, by Charles R. McClure, Amy Owen, Douglas L. Zweizig, Mary Jo Lynch,
and Nancy A. Van House,
(Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1987)
revision and simplification of the 1980 document was intended
primarily for use by the small and medium-size public library,
the document identified eight distinctive roles for library
for Results: A Public Library Transformation Process,
by Ethel Himmel and William James Wilson.
(Chicago: American Library Association, 1998)
The 1987 roles are replaced by "fourteen service
responses that are community needs-based, situation-sensitive,
and more specific, but at the same time more flexible…”
least 18 states now have their
available on the web.
critical question to ask is who will define new standards?
Until 1966, A.L.A. took an active role in setting standards.
Since then, A.L.A. has concentrated on variations on planning
and encouraging libraries to set their own standards.
Individual state library agencies assisted by state library
associations have taken on the job.
Who should take the lead in setting new standards?
Should it be the National Commission on Libraries Information
Services, the U.S. Department of Education Institute for Museums and
Libraries, or the Public Library Association (PL)?
PLA would be the most appropriate to this author’s mind.
spurred the push for standards and wider units of service.
Carnegie was disappointed by the failure of individual
libraries built with Carnegie grants to garner sufficient support to
thrive. Standards, it was hoped would help. Starting in the 1930’s, the University of Chicago and
Carlton Joeckl, among others, were encouraged to push the American
Library Association in the direction of national standards.
In our day the
is spending millions to place computers in the most disadvantaged
libraries but has not seen the need for balancing the books and bytes.
Perhaps one day soon it will see the need for encouraging both
the bootstrap libraries and the libraries that have the best
Who will resist
new national standards? The
state library agencies, citing the need for more local standards, will
probably do so. Many
libraries at or above current median levels of numeric standards for
their state will object. They will have complaints about minimums becoming maximums,
holding back the best, and so forth.
Allowing for benchmark standards of excellence to which the top
tier of libraries can aspire will help to alleviate these concerns.
Comments on Library Standards
often when we think of standards, we immediately jump to the numerical
standards such as the number of books per capita, hours open, or
computer workstations a library of a given size should have.
Equally, if not more important, are prescriptive standards.
These prescriptive standards enquire about the existence of a
challenged materials policy, bylaws for the board, Internet acceptable
use policies, and the like. There
are no numbers here, simply an answer of yes or no to things that it
is deemed every library should be doing.
Does it really take a planning process to discover that a
library needs bylaws for the board or a selection policy?
Of course not. Standards
that require all libraries to have such policies and procedures ought
not to be optional or “discovered” by community analysis.
They are simply necessary.
They are necessary nationally, not state by state.
must also be noted that while technical standards, such as the
standard for cataloging are important, they are not the primary focus
of the present discussion.
standards are, or should be, met by every library. Theoretically, one might say that if a library does not meet
the standard, it can be called a reading room, a coffee shop with
books, or something else, but not a public library.
standards get some attention and lip service, but few states have
implemented such standards for any but the narrowest of measures. Most often these minimum standards include certification of
library staff and hours of service.
Wisconsin has just added absolute minimum standards hours,
collection size and budget to its standards, although the standards,
like most state standards, are advisory.
states have target standards. These
involve moving target standards pegged to some proportion of the
median measures for a given library population.
There is none of that
"everyone is above average" mentality in such standards.
By definition a given percent of libraries will be substandard.
Because so many libraries cannot, by definition, cannot meet
the standards they are always advisory.
is these target standards, on a national basis, particularly the
numerical standards for collection size, expenditures per capita, and
the like, whose lack is most often lamented by libraries seeking
those libraries well above the targets fear such targets will hold
them back. They urge
community based planning instead of hard standards.
standards are found in total quality management (TQM) circles.
Benchmark standards are intended to indicate excellence and best
practices that can be emulated by others.
In 1979 Xerox used Benchmarking to improve their warehousing
operations by replicating the efficiencies achieved by L.L. Bean.
If corporations in one industry can find value in comparing to
corporations in entirely different industries, how can libraries claim
to be beyond comparison?
1991, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has awarded the
Award for Quality
in American businesses. The
award and the attention it draws have greatly increased the interest
of both business and the public sector in the techniques involved with
Benchmarking and Best Practices.
long ago as 1985 Christine MacDonald at the Toronto Reference Library,
now part of the
Public Library System,
conducted the first known library benchmarking study of its Public
Service Department. Comparing
practices to other peer libraries led to a number of innovations and
changes that improved efficiencies.
Involvement of the staff at an earlier stage of the
benchmarking process would have enhanced the process, MacDonald notes.
at the University of Delaware has recently (1999) tried to match
Delaware libraries with other peer institutions with the hope of
establishing a mentoring process that allows Delaware libraries to
learn from peer libraries that have achieved excellence by some
definitions. There is much more development on such benchmarks in the
private sphere with the ISO 9000 quality standards and the Commerce
Department's Baldridge Awards than is found in public libraries.
most businesses it is an axiom that if an agency consistently meets or
exceeds all expectations, soon enough the customer’s expectations
will change. The result
is a never-ending treadmill of higher quality and higher expectations.
The axiom’s converse is not deemed to be true in a
competitive environment. That
is, customers usually change businesses when a firm consistently
disappoints them. The
exception to that rule is in a monopoly setting.
Where once we in libraries may have felt we had a near
monopoly, with the Internet barking in the foreground and cyber-cafes
and mega bookstores baying in the background; few public librarians
feel immune any longer.
is time to encourage America's best libraries go through a quality
assurance process similar to that used by private industry using the
ISO 9000 standards. This
would assure that libraries would have the necessary documentation on
planning and development to allow other libraries and library schools
to study their best practices.
following, relevant to those concerned about library comparisons is
from David Ammons’ article Raising the performance
bar...locally was in the September 1997 issue of Public
the "cringe factor." Many local officials have cringed at
the thought of interjurisdictional comparisons, contending that the
unique qualities of each unit render comparison irrelevant. That
argument has lost much of its credibility in the wake of highly
publicized successes in the private sector by benchmarking
partners from entirely different industries. If Xerox can usefully
compare its operations with those of L.L. Bean, then a local
government's distinctness from others in the same
"industry" is unlikely to render performance comparison
officials would be well advised to face this fact:
interjurisdictional comparisons will be made. Those comparisons can
be anecdotal, pseudo-systematic (for example, "quick and
dirty" studies that often sacrifice precision, consistency, and
validity for simplicity and speed), or systematic. The first two
types--anecdotal and pseudo-systematic comparisons--rank highest on
the cringe-factor scale.
by a citizen or a reporter comparing a local incident with the
"way things work" elsewhere, government officials without
a more systematic basis of comparison can only hope that they have a
favorable anecdote that will counterbalance the unfavorable story.
Rarely are such encounters comfortable or satisfying.
comparisons can produce similar levels of discomfort for local
officials. Simplistic comparisons of the per capita expenditures of
several local governments are a common example. Typically, these
comparisons, which are hastily calculated using the "bottom
lines" of local government budget documents, purport to show
the relative efficiency levels among the units included. But often
they ignore important scope and quality-of-service differences.
Official refutations of alleged inefficiencies rarely receive the
press treatment accorded the initial story.
9000 is a set of five universal standards for a Quality Assurance
system. The standards are
accepted around the world. Currently 90 countries have adopted ISO
9000 as national standards. Customers for a product or service from a
company that is registered to the appropriate ISO 9000 standard have
important assurances that the quality received will be as expected.
The standards apply uniformly to companies in any industry of any
size. There is a
growing trend toward universal acceptance of ISO 9000 as an
libraries have not registered with ISO 9000, but library suppliers,
such as OCLC have. The
present proposal merely urges that top-notch libraries be urged to
apply for ISO 9000 type certification as a condition for grants and
recognition. It is not
suggested that all or even most libraries should use this process,
only the willing and the best.
Motors can purchase crankshafts, radiators and the like from scores of
companies. It chooses to
purchase only from ISO 9000 certified suppliers because the
certification helps to ensure a higher level of consistent quality in
the product. The suppliers have gone through a rigorous regimen of
self-analysis and documentation of processes.
a way ISO 9000 certification is a bit like ALA Accreditation for
Library Schools. The
documentation and site visits cannot absolutely guarantee that all
graduates are well taught and know their stuff, of course.
The odds are just increased, that's all. An unaccredited school
also produces quality grads, but most libraries look for ALA
accreditation for the same reason that GM looks for ISO certification.
They are betting that it will increase their chances of
Private industry benchmarking
as used in
– focus more on process details.
Targets as benchmarks
– As one example,
define a strategic set of goals for the state that can be stated in
terms of outcomes. Oregon
focused on youth services in 1989.
Note that this had a major influence on state library grants
and library focus. See for instance
Performance statistics as benchmarks.
– Such measures focus more on outcome details.
The measures can be either statistical or anecdotal, official
or media/pundit driven. –
Some have asked if the
have had the impact that it did if not for the reluctance of many
professional librarians over many years to make any comparisons at
approach attempts to provide performance measurement across four main
customer, internal business processes,
and learning/growth. The
approach is intended to link performance and action measures and
linked to an organization’s vision and strategy.
Partnership for Reinventing Government
Measures: Best Practices in Performance Management,”
[t]he old method of management, which focused only on the
bottom line, no longer works. If the customer, stakeholder, and
employee are not part of the solution, they will forever be part of
The aim of
is to address the need for all libraries to develop and utilize
performance measures for the new networked, electronic environment,
alongside traditional measures, and to operate these within a
framework of quality management. The EQUINOX software will be an
integrated Quality Management System (QMS) and Performance Measurement
System (PMS) software application tool for traditional and electronic
library services. EQUINOX will be the first system to provide
librarians with an integrated tool for managing the `hybrid' library.
One searches in vain for any comparable U.S. efforts.
most talked about area of library standards development right now is,
of course, the area of measurement of electronic and Internet use.
State Cooperative Service
group in December voted to add only ONE of three proposed measures.
We need proper standards to begin to adequately address the
important issues of Internet use and electronic use in libraries, but
neither ALA nor anyone else in nationally seems able to address this
and the European
project are attempting to standardize electronic measures. To date
consensus on this pivotal issue eludes us.
he had much to do with its governmental launch, Vice President Al Gore
did not invent the Internet.
But he has spent nearly 8 years pushing the re-invention
the National Partnership for Reinventing Government notes in “Balancing
Best Practices in Performance Management,”
[t]he old method of management, which focused only on the
bottom line, no longer works. If the customer, stakeholder, and
employee are not part of the solution, they will forever be part of
December 13, 1999, Vice Presidential Press release reads in part:
new, wide-ranging rating of satisfaction with federal government
services allows federal agencies to be compared to the private sector
and each other for the first time ever. The ratings span 29 so-called
“high impact” agencies, and are being issued as a special report
of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which has been
measuring satisfaction with goods and services in the private sector
since 1994. The aggregate score for the federal government is 68.6 on
a 100-point scale. This is 6 percent lower than the private-sector
aggregate score of 73, but 9 percent higher than commercial airlines
and 11 percent higher than satisfaction with network news.
were not included in this process.
After the Fall election, we may wish we had been.
The text below was originally presented to an
OCLC Sponsored awards dinner for the 5 top ranked
Index libraries in Ohio.
author’s HAPLR Index was featured in the
issues of American Libraries. In
brief, here is how he would like to use benchmarking tools to provide
for a new type of grant program.
Use the HAPLR
Index to identify candidates for library grants and recognition.
Libraries so identified could then choose to enter into
a grant process.
libraries would be subjected to a peer review process that lets
seasoned professional librarians rate the libraries.
This will assure professional judgment of the libraries in a
process similar to that applied to library schools for certification.
libraries would also be tested with a customer satisfaction inventory
using a national agency to assure that they are also providing
customer service in an excellent manner.
One of the possible methods would be use of the
American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI),
a national economic indicator of customer satisfaction with the
quality of goods and services available to consumers in the United
libraries would go through a quality assurance process similar to that
used by private industry using the ISO 9000 standards to assure that
libraries would have the necessary documentation on planning and
development to allow other libraries and library schools to study and
learn from their best practices.
Schools would provide field placements at the mentor libraries to
allow new graduates exposure to examine the best practices of the top
training centers would be established.
They would use distance education technology to discuss and
examine the best practices at the mentor libraries.
The distance education centers would allow library staff at all
libraries to join a virtual community to examine the best practices at
Provide for a
limited number Best Practices Library Grants to libraries that succeed
in getting through all the steps outlined.
These would be similar to Genius Grants and the
Quality Awards. The library would receive prestige for the award and a cash
grant from government or private foundation sources.
The awards would be granted without any strings with the
assumption that the chosen libraries would use them to define improved
practices for the future. A
major problem, of course is finding an appropriate funding source for
very analog metaphor must be permitted in these digital times.
The library standards pendulum swings between inputs and
outputs. Today, the
stress is on planning for outputs (see for example:
where once it was on planning for inputs (as in the 1966 ALA
standards). But, as
Galileo observed while daydreaming in a church in Pisa, the arc of a
pendulum when measured over time and from a variety of vantage points,
inscribes a line and a circle as well as an arc.
This article will take us on a brief tour of the lines of
library standards, the political arcs of best practices, and the
quality circles of TQM.
ago, public library leaders thought nationally in their planning. National library standards reached their zenith in the
Johnson administration. By
the Carter administration, the standards baby was out with the input
every thing was re-defined in terms of output measures.
Lacking any national standards, most states began or revised
their own state standards, a trend that meshed well with the
Reagan-Bush devolution and states rights philosophy.
then there came a whisper that developed into a show stopping tune.
It sounded like Dorothy and friends on their way to Oz singing
“Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh no!”
The new song was ‘Deming and Baldridge, so there, oh no.‘
It was American business, stung by recession and Asian competition,
searching for new ways to make their businesses more competitive.
Realizing that downsizing improved profits in the short run
alone, business increasingly turned to the quality circles and awards
pressed by Deming and Baldridge.
always, the wider national framework influenced library planning.
There have been occasional stabs at using benchmarking, total
quality management and similar methods, especially in academic
libraries, but as John
noted in the January issue of Public Libraries, there does not appear
to be any professional consensus whatever on either public library
standards or evaluation methods.
in the United States have developed in a decentralized pattern rather
than on the more centralized model of European libraries because of
several factors. Libraries
in the U.S. have generally been perceived as adjuncts to educational
activities, and these activities are by and large deemed local or
notes that Andrew Carnegie's endowments of 1,400 public libraries led
to a proliferation of libraries in smaller communities. The large
number of small libraries in the U.S. is still an important factor
in library cooperative activities.
need to go forward to basics. We should have national minimum
standards for all public libraries in America. We need national
advisory standards that all libraries should strive for though only
some will reach. Most of
all we need benchmarks of excellence for exceptional libraries so that
the rest can learn from the best.
should begin the process immediately.
locally needed standards, as in the current
process is, of course, to be encouraged.
But consider. Would
you fly an airline that set its own standards for when the wings
should be de-iced?
has Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Public libraries need minimum standards that any American can
expect in any library. Beyond
that we need Generally Accepted Library Procedures (GALP?). Private businesses of all types are reaching for excellence
using Benchmarking and Best Practices methodologies.
It is time for public libraries to do the same.
profession should set minimum standards for libraries. .
Let us compete for excellence by exceeding minimums, then
exceeding targets, and finally soaring to total quality library
service. When libraries
soar this high, let’s go forward to basics, and award excellence.
is a list of web-based resources only.
Many other states have print library standards.
and Total Quality Management
Ammons, David. “Raising
the performance bar...locally.” Public Management (US),
Sep97, Vol. 79 Issue 9, p10, 7p.
Focuses on the use of performance measurement and benchmarks
for local governments. Benefits of performance measurement; Three
types of benchmarking in the public sector; Suggestions for effective
use of comparative performance data; Advantages of performance data
T. Czarnecki Managing
by Measuring : How to Improve Your Organization's Performance Through
Effective Benchmarking ISBN
0-8144-0390-5 © 1999 The Benchmarking Network, Inc., Houston, Tex.
G. Arno. Estimating
Local Financial Support for Public Libraries:
A Tool to Facilitate Benchmarking of Best Practices Among
Counties in the United States.
Public Productivity and Management Review.
Vol. 23 No.1, September 1999 pp. 23-39.
Theodore H.; Streib, Gregory “Performance Measurement in
Municipal Government: Assessing the State of the Practice.” Public
Administration Review, Jul/Aug99, Vol. 59 Issue 4, p325, 11p,
5 charts, 4 graphs Presents
the results of a study regarding performance measurement in local and
municipal government of the United States. The increased interest in
performance measurement in local public administration in the 1990s;
Support surveys of the findings; Methods and conclusions of the study.
Sarah M. “Library benchmarking: Old wine in new bottles? “ Journal
of Academic Librarianship, Nov95, Vol. 21 Issue 6, p491, 5p
Scrutinizes benchmarks in relation to library and higher
education. Benchmarks associated with total quality management
programs; Description of benchmarks; Definition of benchmarks and
statistics; Targets for benchmarking; Relevant details.
is an economic indicator that measures customer satisfaction. In the
ACSI, customer’s evaluations of quality are based on actual
experiences with the goods and services being measured. These goods
and services are purchased in the United States and produced by both
domestic and foreign firms that have substantial U.S. market shares.
The first ACSI was released in October 1994. Since then it has been
released quarterly with one or two of the measured seven economic
sectors updated each quarter.The ACSI Index is produced through a
partnership among the University of Michigan Business School, the
American Society for Quality, and Arthur Andersen. The University of
Michigan Business School's National Quality Research Center, which
developed the methodology used, compiles and analyzes the ACSI data.
EQUINOX Project: Library Performance Measurement
and Quality Management System
Centre for Research in Library and Information Management (CERLIM),
based in the Department of Information and Communications at
Manchester Metropolitan University, has been active in the research of
performance measurement and quality management since 1995. CERLIM
projects in this area have attracted funded from the British Library,
JISC and the European Commission.
Resources for Information Professionals:
and Standards Affecting Libraries Compiled by State Libraries, Joe
Easy is dedicated to helping organizations understand and implement
9000 and ISO 9001 models for quality assurance.
mission of Library Benchmarking International is to help librarians
and information professionals in academic, special and government
environments to achieve operational excellence. They say that they
will help apply the principles of Total Quality Management (TQM) to
achieve "breakthrough" results that meet and exceed
management and customer expectations.
Their goal is to help use the TQM tool of benchmarking to
improve customer service, increase productivity and reduce costs.
Public Library Standards.
14, 1999. ©1999 by
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
of Government wide Policy (GSA) Managing for Results Page.
want to ensure that governmentwide policies allow and encourage
agencies to develop and utilize the best, most cost effective
management practices for the conduct of their specific programs.