Public Library Standards 2007 - Overview
Much has changed in Maine’s libraries since the latest revision of the Maine Public Library Standards in 2000.
Maine InfoNet (including Minerva, SOLAR, URSUS, and other associated catalogs) has taken root and grown into a vital resource-sharing network that exemplifies the best in collaboration among Maine’s libraries. The Marvel! databases are now an essential tool in meeting the information needs of Maine’s citizens. Many library facilities in Maine have undergone major expansions and renovations.
Other kinds of changes to the library landscape in the last six years include the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA); the USA PATRIOT Act and its reauthorization in the face of a prolonged “War on Terror”; and continual threats of eroding funding for libraries and other public services (as an example, the so-called Palesky Plan defeated in the statewide election in 2004).
Google is reputedly taking over, and recent widely publicized studies have documented a supposed precipitous decline in reading among the public. The imminent demise of libraries is predicted—but most libraries in Maine have never been busier! If Maine citizens are voting with their feet, the landslide decision is that Maine’s libraries still matter to their communities and are certain to continue as important cultural hubs.
The purpose of this Standards document, then, is to give libraries a tool for identifying strengths and selecting areas for improvement and in so doing provide better service to their communities. These standards—together with a mission statement, a strategic plan, and specific goals and objectives—can guide a library toward serving its community well and also give the library a credible voice before funding authorities.
This document can be used, too, as an outline for sound management practice for public libraries; as a checklist for self-evaluation; and as a planning tool to help libraries set goals and objectives, bearing in mind always the uniqueness of each library and its community.
The Standards Committee recognizes that not every library will meet every standard. We understand that smaller libraries may never have the resources to meet some of these standards, but we offer the standards as goals toward which all libraries can work.
There are some standards, however, that we believe should apply to all public libraries in Maine, regardless of location or size or financial support. We have placed an asterisk next to those standards recommended as the minimum for all libraries. Such standards offer a starting point for library boards and directors to use in planning. By meeting these minimum standards, a library establishes a baseline from which it can work toward excellence. Any community considering establishing a new public library should evaluate its ability to meet these minimum standards.
The intention of the Standards Committee is not that these standards will be used as the basis for decisions in the awarding of grants or similar funds.
Still, the Committee does recognize that some kind of criteria are needed for the apportioning of limited resources for the support of libraries. With this need in mind, the Committee focused a great deal of attention on developing a definition of a public library—the absolutely essential prerequisites which should already be in place to act as a foundation for public library service and which should ensure the best use of finite non-local funds and other types of support to enhance local library service.
The Committee defined a public library as follows:
"Public library” shall mean an entity which provides library services free of charge to all residents of its legal service area, and which receives its annual financial support in whole or in part from municipal funds. Said entity must also (1) have a paid staff person to direct the library; (2) provide a collection organized and cataloged by a standard library classification system; (3) have an annual materials budget; (4) participate in interlibrary cooperation; (5) provide access to circulating and reference materials, including access to electronic resources; and (6) be open to the public a minimum of 15 hours per week.
As pressure continues to intensify for ever more efficient use of both tax and private funding, we expect that one of the great strengths of Maine’s libraries—the spirit of cooperation—will come to the fore. Even greater interlibrary cooperative efforts than exist today will be needed to meet the public library standards of the future. Our hope is that Maine’s libraries can lead the way for public institutions in forging partnerships and finding solutions to make the best use of resources in service to Maine’s people.
In any event, we hope that this updated edition of the Standards will prove helpful to Maine’s public libraries in moving ahead into the 21st century.