A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

Another Take on Accreditation

Accreditation is entirely voluntary. And, it’s a ton of work. So why do it?

The occasional rumbling about whether accreditation might someday become a prerequisite for Provincial funding may have planted the seed. If we ever head down that road, why not be prepared, I reasoned.

Respect for staff in those systems that have gone through the process was no doubt a factor. As an ARUPLO member, I’ve worked on the ARUPLO Guidelines and appreciate how much they have helped rural multi-branch systems argue for and justify space, staffing, and collection needs when planning a new facility or rationalizing service levels and budgetary asks. I’m proud of the work that ARUPLO has done, so wanted to go a step further and meet Provincial Guidelines (which recognize and cite the ARUPLO Guidelines).

But I think that most of all, I wanted to achieve accreditation because I wanted to improve my housekeeping skills.  Alas, one look at my desk will testify to the fact that there is much room for improvement in that department.  Though I expect to still be here when re-accreditation time rolls around five years from now, it will likely prove to be one of the final movements of my swan song.  I want to leave the library in good order: policies in place and regularly reviewed; planning documents that are up-to-date, meaningful, and in use; priorities in line with what the community needs and wants. Participation in the accreditation process has become part of my succession plan.

Smaller systems like OCL, particularly rural systems, may have equivalent overall FTE counts as our urban counterparts, but our FTEs are spread over multiple locations. We tend to become Jacks – or Jills – of all trades. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to undertake multiple capital building and renovation projects over the years, or those of us who find ourselves having to be hands-on in various aspects of day-to-day library operations, know how little time is left for ensuring that all policies (mandatory ones let alone the discretionary ones) are in place and all of the good work of planning, advocacy, community outreach and information, etc. etc. etc, is given its due. Chances are, opportunities to get creative and be part of an exciting project that will directly increase or improve services will win out over holing up in the office and pounding out policies and procedures. Nevertheless, the work needs to be done, and committing to accreditation ensured that I would devote the required staff resources.

I was not coaxed or pressured into this process by anyone – neither Board nor peer. I didn’t start off planning to seek accreditation for all 14 branches. I didn’t think that a few of our smaller branches housed in poorer facilities would pass. I worried that the work required to improve them would prove to be too much for our limited resources. All 14 did get accredited, though, and I am glad. It’s been a morale booster, and reassuring to staff in our smaller locations that their branches weren’t “left behind”. 

Accreditation does not demand perfection. It tolerates, but illuminates, many flaws, giving us a roadmap for improvement. 

Stay tuned for another post from Lisa on accreditation soon!