by Carolyn Brewer, NTLP Executive Director
It seems lately that accreditation does not make a tangible difference for libraries, especially in funding decisions. Public libraries in Texas are very familiar with the indicators from the annual report required by the state library for continued accreditation of that specific library.
The standards which are set in order to meet accreditation are important. Standards set by any industry are necessary for proven effectiveness and ability in that industry. It supports professionalism. Public library reporting areas include: governance, administration, access, collections and resources, funding, staffing, technology, and outreach.
The purpose of the accreditation process is to establish expectations for governance, services, and resources for public libraries. The anticipated outcome is that Texas residents will have access to accurate, quality library services from public libraries that meet statewide standards. It is admirable as citizens unite to start a new library in an area that is not currently served by a public library, or is not reasonably close to the neighboring community. The disparity is great between large, urban libraries and very small rural libraries. It is crucial that accreditation has a core set of standards for all libraries, regardless of community population, to determine if residents are provided at least a minimum of services.
In Texas, we have set the accreditation standards as very minimal.
“In January 1998, the TLA ad hoc Committee on Public Library Standards was created by the TLA Executive Board and charged with the creation of qualitative and quantitative standards for public libraries in Texas. The Texas Library Association (TLA) Council approved those standards on April 24, 2002 and were accepted by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) on May 14, 2002.
“In 2003, the State Library and Archives Commission (Peggy D. Rudd, Director and Librarian) and the Texas Library Association (Eva Poole, President) established the Joint TSLAC/TLA Task Force on Public Library Standards and Accreditation. Its charge included evaluation of the 2002 Texas Public Library Standards for their timeliness, comprehensiveness, and appropriateness and to recommend any needed changes.
“The Task Force elected to recognize three levels of service: basic, enhanced, and comprehensive. The enhanced level builds upon the basic and the comprehensive upon the enhanced. Libraries that achieve the enhanced or comprehensive level will be those where improvement is a proactive rather than reactive process.
“To support progress and improved performance, the Task Force has recommended that Loan Star Libraries Grant allocations be directed at initiatives that will improve public library achievement in meeting standards.” (Taken from: https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/plstandards/intro.html)
It is important to continue evaluating these standards and adherence to the standards to be an accredited library. The next task force needs to establish stronger standards that are mandatory for that level of accreditation. Municipal government leaders never want to just be a “basic” library. Just as schools list “Exemplary” on a banner outside of the school, libraries could post “basic, enhanced or comprehensive.” Even though the Loan Star libraries grant program is no longer a supported grant program, libraries are still relevant to the success of residents, communities and the state. The statistics provided to TSLAC will continue to tell the story of a public library’s impact on the surrounding community.
While in the current economic climate, library accreditation seems like a low priority at first, but it is the very foundation of achievement for education and economic growth. It is time for TSLAC/TLA and other interested stakeholders to revisit the Texas library standards and update them to meet the current challenges and opportunities with technology and trends.
Accreditation is essential for city, county and state funders to understand that the local public library is an established institution which meets state standards for services to their community - standards which set a foundation for excellence in meeting information and technology needs.