13. Planning how to say it

If you want to improve your information provision you have to do it coherently. One-off projects are just not as effective.

According to the Office for Disability (ODI) in the UK, there are five principles that local authorities and others in the public sector can use to make sure that all their information and easy to use. The ODI bases this on accessibility for people with disabilities. If information is accessible to people with disabilities, it is easy for everyone to use. It is also more responsive to the public’s needs.

Here are the principles, adapted for the broad range of library users and the public in general:

  1. Ensure that your target audiences are involved from the start
  2. Provide information through a range of channels and formats
  3. Ensure that your information meets users’ needs
  4. Signpost other services clearly
  5. Define responsibility for the provision of information.

For more detail about these principles, and examples of how they have worked in practice in UK public bodies, download ‘Producing better information for disabled people: a toolkit for local authorities’ from the Office of Disability Issues website.

Involve the experts

Your information and communications protocols may be more or less effective than you think they are. It would also be useful to look at your existing information, in whatever format you produce it, in relation to the advice given in this publication. If you want to communicate effectively with your audiences, it would be helpful to ask your current library users – and some people who are not library users – how they rate them. Focus groups would be a good way of doing this, if you can arrange them. For some issues a virtual team (who don’t meet but who correspond by e-mail) might be suitable.

Whatever methods you use, make sure that you include all kinds of people from a wide range of backgrounds. If you do not already have consultation groups, or other feedback mechanisms, consider establishing them. They can be very helpful in generating comments and suggestions about existing information provision and communications protocols, and in ‘road-testing’ new ones. They can also tell you what information they find useful, what they want more of, what they want less of, and in which formats they want to receive it. Involving library users will make it easier to ensure that public library information focuses on how people want to use the service, rather than on how it is organised, or how you see it. The process will also help you to stay on track.

‘Involvement’ is the key word here. People will give their best if they are sure that their opinions and ideas really matter and are taken seriously. Listening carefully to library users (and non-users) can help libraries to be more effective and can save you a lot of time and money in the longer term. ‘Producing better information for disabled people: a toolkit for local authorities’, published by the UK Office for Disability, includes many ideas for how to get the best out of user involvement.

For information on how to organise meetings which involve people with disabilities, download ‘Ask Me: Guidelines for consulting with people with disabilities’ from the NDA’s website. ‘See It Right’, published by the UK Royal National Institute for the Blind, includes useful advice on how to make sure that any visual aids that you might use – Powerpoint, flipcharts and so on – are easy for all to see.

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