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The Arts Council England (ACE) have published this document on the 13th September 2011. It is intended to demonstrate how the strategic responsibility they are taking on for museums and libraries from October 2011 fits with their existing strategic framework ‘Achieving great art for everyone‘.

I have found it an interesting read, especially in relation to my role as Black Country Library Services Project Manager. I can see a lot of synergies in what I am trying to achieve with the ambitions for the sector as set out in this document. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.

In particular I think the long-term goals for libraries and museums they list will be a useful reference point as library and museum services develop and change over the coming years (especially when difficult situations are being faced):

Goal 1: Excellence is thriving and celebrated in museums and libraries
Goal 2: More people experience and are inspired by museums and libraries
Goal 3: Museums and libraries are sustainable, resilient and innovative for everyone today and looking forward
Goal 4: The leadership and workforce in museums and libraries are diverse and highly skilled.
Goal 5: Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of museums and libraries.
There are some particularly useful statements that I am sure I will see quoted in a number of key strategic documents in the future.

What has been particularly useful, as far as I am concerned, is the literature review that has been done to support this document. I have not seen this kind of review on library evidence in the past. The literature review clearly shows where ACE has found gaps in evidence and what they are planning to do to fill these gaps.

I wait to see with interest what colleagues in libraries think of their proposals, especially the idea of a one day census of library use.

The Future Libraries Programme final report was published today. You can find it here.

The following comments are my own and are my initial thoughts about the report and the responses it has had when it was first published and promoted.

There are some strong feelings going around about the recommendations in the report that libraries should work differently along the lines of ‘but that is what we already do’. In many cases this is right – especially in the better library services, but it is not true everywhere, and it may not be true in full in every library authority.

My concern is that the high level of press coverage with the annoyance at some of the content is missing some really useful messages that strategic library managers and campaigners need to be making use of when working to keep library services we can all be proud of and want to use.

The document has many things that would be better for us to make a noise about, 2 of which are demonstrated in the following quotes:

‘Investment in a good process will achieve the best outcomes both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness for local residents and communities.’

‘Change will only happen if political leadership and professional expertise are harnessed in the same direction. ‘

This document also says that change takes time to implement effectively (the document quotes 12-18 months).

Hallelujah – but does that mean those of us who are trying to develop innovative new ways of managing libraries in a financially challenged time will be given this type of support? Lets hope so, but we need to be passing on these messages not just the frustration that the document keeps telling us to do the things some of us are already doing.

Maybe the reason that we keep being told to do things we already do is that we haven’t told enough people often about what an excellent library service actually does in words that mean something to them? The report does make reference to this:

‘For many decades, libraries have developed good practice across a range of outcomes and demonstrated innovation in partnerships and programmes to meet the needs of new communities or changing customer circumstances and choices. However this has not always been reflected in strong corporate buy-in at the level of the council executive and corporate management team. One of the key lessons from the Future Libraries Programme pilots is the need to position modernising libraries within and alongside wider transformation programmes taking place in the council.’


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