A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

The Who and How of Accreditation

The simple answer to the “who” of accreditation is: Everyone! ‘Who me?’ Yes, you.

In my initial review of the standards, I looked at our policies – they were my responsibility. I knew that we had all the policies that were required, so I put a little check mark next to each one of them. Then the management team and I reviewed the content of each policy, and we found to our dismay, that some of the policies didn’t cover all the recommended subject matter. For example, the local history policy guideline states:

4.10.1 Local History Policy – The library has established and adopted a policy which addresses such issues as: what types of local history materials are to be collected; whether resources related to local genealogy are to be circulated; what geographic area is to be covered; what techniques or methods are to be used for preservation of the materials; procedures on public use of the materials in the collection or as archived by the library or library partners in the community.

We had a local history policy, but it didn’t specifically define the geographic area of “local” and, though we have a long standing partnership with the local branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, the scope and terms of the relationship weren’t addressed in the policy.

We also discovered that not all of our policies had been reviewed and approved by the Board within the required time. So each policy was reviewed by staff, the content was scrutinized and language was updated. As a result, there were many lively policy discussions at the Board meetings! Many of the policies just needed to be updated with modern language and more specific content.

For the other standards, teams of two or three staff toured the building to ensure the physical requirements were met, or analysed and reported on the technology or accessibility benchmarks. In an empty office, we stored four banker’s boxes, labelled with the guideline sections: one box for Sections 1 and 2, Governance and Accessibility; one for Section 3: Resources, another box for Services; and the last box held Section 5: Cooperation and Partnerships and 6. Technology.

Each team took their section of the checklist, reviewed the standards, and wrote comments or justification for each of the Guidelines. Each team gathered the necessary documentation, completed a little report, and filled their box.

One of the part-time summer staff was assigned a special project. With tape measure in hand, he measured sample shelving units in the adult and children’s departments, and did the math. We realized that for the most part, especially in the adult department, our shelves were too high!

We really had to work hard to ensure that everything was ready before the accreditation team came. When the team of accreditation reviewers arrived, we gave them our boxes, with reports, documentation, policies and justification.

At the end of all out hard work we were delighted to hear that we were perfect – almost! We met all the standards but one – our shelves were still too high! We are proud to be accredited library, but even more proud of the work and understanding we’ve developed..

We don’t take the policies for granted anymore. As a result, we now are on a more regular cycle of policy review, and ensure that all policies are reviewed within a board’s term of office. Staff are involved in reviewing, critiquing and revising policies. While not many name this as a favourite activity, I think it does give staff a sense of ownership around library policy and procedure. It also makes policies much easier to apply, since more staff are intimately acquainted with them! We are pleased to report that since accreditation, we have continued to weed, and our shelving units are still just as high, but in the adult section, the top shelf is empty.

What about you? Perhaps accreditation is out of reach because lack of funding means your collection is too small, or the building is not accessible. Nevertheless, striving for accreditation gives you goals to aim for, areas for improvement, and justification for your requests for funding to improve the library, and meet provincial standards. I encourage everyone to aim for accreditation.