Friday, October 19, 2007

WLA Conference - Wisconsin Public Library Standards and Certification

Panel discussion:

First presenter was David Polodna (Winding Rivers): Certification in Wisconsin started in the 1920s. In 1965, state library re-organized, and certification went to DPI. In 1975, expiration dates for certification and renewal required continuing education. In 1980 Certification Manual was published. In 1985, new higher level added, and limited to directors. In 1995 new ranges of population established. Changes since, refinements.

Panel: Where do the Standards help in providing good public service? Excellent libraries and staff in the state. There are areas where we do well, and others where we need improvement. ILL is one area of excellence (including delivery), support of intellectual freedom is also high.

Discussion on certification and standards. Certification is one of the requirements to belong to a library system. The Standards are simply voluntary, and have no enforcement value. We have some fabulous people running very small libraries in Wisconsin. Many directors in small towns have lots of community connections. There was much discussion on the very small libraries in the state. Issues of community of identity, and funding.

There was much discussion about professional versus non professional, salary levels, changing roles and job descriptions. One panelist reminded us that libraries expend 60-70% of the budget for salaries. Economic constraints should not drive the discussion of deprofessionalization of any position. There needs to be a Board and community commitment to library training. Discussion about job ads and include requirements for 2-3 years experience.

How do Standards help? How will they help make sure we do well in the future? Provide a target for library development. Assist library boards to assess the quality of their own programs. Provide benchmarks and positive reinforcement for library activities. Ther may be too many categories in the Standards. For small libraries, the number of hours open helps a great deal.

How do we measure quality? Are we even counting the right things? If you measure people's expectations and the service you provide, for many small libraries the gap is small. Can we meet the expectations of a changing population (growth, influx of immigrants, etc.)

The program was more diffuse than I expected, but there were some interesting discussions.

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