My first session at OLA was called New Technology Benchmarks for Ontario Public Libraries. The fifth edition of these benchmarks were released in November 2010, and are available at the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries web site (http://www.fopl.ca). Section 7 of the Introduction (Municipal and County Public Libraries) of http://www.fopl.ca/OntarioPublicLibrariesMonitoringandAccreditationCouncil/ is where the new guidelines can be found.
The Ontario Public Library Guidelines are used in a process where libraries achieve an accreditation, although libraries can choose to adopt the guidelines without going through the accreditation process (which also means that those libraries do not need the recognition that comes with accreditation). This process is peer audited, with an overall minimum score required for accreditation in mandatory and non-mandatory areas. While I’ve thought of these guidelines to be of interest primarily to small- or medium-sized libraries, the speakers indicated that there are areas of the guidelines where large libraries can fall short. The accreditation lasts for only five years.
The purpose of the guidelines is to establish measurable and achievable benchmarks useful for planning and development, as well as case-making for funding. The benchmarks are a measurement tool to establish the current status of each library’s use of technology in comparison to provincial norms for comparable libraries.
The technology benchmarks are primarily for tools, not for content. The benchmarks reflect current technology trends and the general technology environment.
What I found most interesting was the speakers’ discussion of the research done for the benchmarks. The group behind the benchmarks, the Ontario Public Library Guidelines Monitoring and Accreditation Council, aimed to design benchmarks that are appropriate and reasonable. The Council looked at trends and standards, and conducted a survey of libraries (the survey results are to be greeted with caution, as the survey indicated only a general impression).
The issues that were researched included integrated library systems (ILS’s), WiFi, websites and remote access to resources, equipment maintenance and troubleshooting, technology provision in library branches, social media, digitization, and use of e-learning tools.
Some interesting results from the research:
– library web sites are at various levels of development
– wireless is valued and universal
– digitization efforts vary
– e-learning (such as use of webinars) is common
Many technology trends were looked at when constructing the guidelines: the semantic web, software as a service (SaaS), discovery platforms or dynamic content (for catalogues), open source software (which is becoming more trusted), RFID (but only being adopted in larger libraries), consumer technology and library customer expectations, mobile technology, ebooks, and so on.
In the new 5th edition of the guidelines the mandatory guidelines were increased. Considered essential elements are user education and training. The new edition also includes a major revision to accessibility standards.
A sixth edition of the guidelines is planned for 2012. Grand Valley Public Library was the only library to achieve 100% of the guidelines (http://www.grandvalley.org).
Section 7, the technology-related section of the guidelines, from www.fopl.ca:
SECTION 7 – Use of Technology
7.1 Technology policy, planning and administration
7.1.2 The board may also have written policies on other technology related matters as relevant, e.g. staff assistance in the use of technology, the use of personal technology equipment in the library.
The library has in place a plan for acquiring, servicing, upgrading and replacing
7.1.7 Performance indicators and statistics – The library makes use of technological capabilities (such as ILS reports and web site analytics) for collecting statistics to facilitate various aspects of library planning (such as collection development, open hours and staffing), and completion of the Annual Survey of Public Libraries.
7.2 Communication and Computer Networks
7.2.7 The library has a policy or protocols about which staff and volunteers have individual access, group access or departmental access.
7.3 Computer Equipment
7.4 Library software
7.4.4 Software applications for public service functions – The library has an important role in the community providing public access to computers, and as such may provide facilities for word-processing and other community use of computers, as well as access to core library services (e.g. catalogue, Internet access).
The library has office and other software applications available for public access according to the established needs of the community. The library has either the applications required, or has a plan in place for obtaining the appropriate software.
7.5 Library web sites and web-based services
Where the library’s web site is part of the municipality’s web site, an agreement is
7.5.5 Library collections – The web site has up-to-date information about the library’s collections and how to use them. It may have information such as reading and research guides, guides to media and electronic materials etc. to assist visitors choosing materials.
7.5.8 Web sites for specific user groups – The library has sections of the web site, or additional web sites for one or more specific user groups such as children, teens, and significant cultural or linguistic populations in the community. They are well sign-posted from the library landing page.
7.5.9 Interactive services – The World Wide Web and the Internet are in a continual state of evolution. Mobile technologies, “Web 2.0” and “Web 3.0” expand the potential for using technology to deliver services and communicate with library users and the wider community.
The library has addressed social media and/or mobile technology in its various planning processes. It uses these technologies to enhance its relationships with library users and the community.
7.6 Staffing for information technology
7.6.2 Technology expertise – The library has access to skills which support planning, purchasing, configuring and upgrading technology. E.g. advice from municipal IT department or purchasing department; OLS input.
7.6.3 Technical support – computer equipment, software and networks are complex, and skilled technicians are required to install them, maintain their performance, and repair faults in a timely fashion.
The library has access to staff that can provide skilled technical support for installing, maintaining and repairing library technology. The library has identified its requirements for technical support in terms of skill levels, knowledge of library technology, availability of support and response times. If the library’s technical support doesn’t meet its identified requirements at present, the library has an agreed plan for achieving them.