14. Next steps for public libraries

Assign responsibility

Point 5 on the ODI list (see above) is about assigning responsibility for information provision to a named person. This person should:

  • make sure that all the public library’s information delivery is up to standard
  • sign off on all new information and communications initiatives
  • stay in touch with the public’s emerging information needs
  • organise training in information and communications skills (including how to meet the communication and information needs of people with disabilities) as part of the induction process for new staff
  • keep information and communication high on the public library’s agenda.

Write a house style guide

If your public library service or local authority does not have a house style guide (sometimes known as a style book or a writing manual), start the process of compiling one now!

A style guide should include plain language guidance, punctuation, acceptable usage (for example, the use of abbreviations and acronyms, the form of job titles, the use of capital letters, forms of address), terminology, standard explanations of special terms and so on. It should also deal with design issues, such as fonts, layout, templates and colours, and also with the production of information for the web and in alternative formats. You can get examples of style guides from many local authorities. The website of Plain English Ireland, a commercial company, also includes some sample style guide content.

Develop a policy

Some local authorities have developed communications policies. These generally give more detail about spoken communication, how to deal with complaints, events and so on. Local authorities usually put their communications policies on their websites, so you can get ideas by doing a quick search on the internet.

Another approach would be to develop an information policy. This does not need to be a long or complex. Its main aim should be to set out the library service’s commitment to meeting users’ information needs. The policy should include:

  • standard operating procedures for information-giving in various forms (in person, on the phone, in print, and so on)
  • references to the house style guide, and the local authority communications policy, if there is one
  • procedures for providing information in formats other than standard print
  • quality control.

Library membership

Public libraries tend to communicate more often with their members than with other library users. To make sure that you communicating with the public in the way they find most appropriate, all you have to do is ask them! Offered a choice, and assured that it is no trouble, many people will choose something other than standard print. Ask your members about their preferred information format, and what library information they would like. You might be surprised by the results.

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