Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 5th December 2011


Report of the Director of Learning and Development


Welsh Public Library Standards


Purpose of the Report

1.             To recommend to Cabinet the endorsement of the Annual Return for 2010-11 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.             To inform Members of the feedback on the Library and Information Service performance received from the Welsh Government.

3.             To provide Members with an overview of the Fourth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2011-14 'Maintaining a Valued Service'.


1.             That Members recommend to Cabinet the endorsement of the Annual Return for 2010-11 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.             That Members note the current and anticipated performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Public Libraries Standards framework

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Assembly Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2010-11.

2.             To keep Members informed of progress.


4.             The Council is a Library Authority under the terms of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and as such has a statutory duty to ‘provide a comprehensive and efficient library service’.  The Public Library Standards were introduced by the Welsh Government in September 2001 as a common performance assessment framework for public library services in Wales.  The aim is to provide information on the performance of public library services across Wales, drive improvements in performance, and to identify the underlying factors affecting those performances.

5.             The Standards are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government on a three year cycle.  The Annual Return submitted for 2010-11 was the last of the Third Framework which operated from April 2008 to March 2011.

6.             There were 14 Standards in the Third Framework and they measure performance in key aspects of the Library and Information Service.  The Standards are usually calibrated from the performance achieved by the best 25% of services in the UK.  Benchmarks for improvement are based on the performance being achieved by the best 10% of library services in Wales.

7.             A set of 13 Performance Indicators were also included.  These provide more detailed information about services and can identify the reasons for the strengths and weaknesses of the service.  This can assist in correlating performances with key factors such as levels of investment and can also improve the focus of the management of services.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.             The Annual Return for 2010-11 is attached at Appendix 1, and following a request from Members, the information is also provided in summary form in Appendix 2.  The Return is completed using a template provided by the Welsh Government and requires pertinent details and explanations to enable the Assessors to evaluate performance against each of the 14 Standards.

9.             Feedback in the form of an Assessment from the Welsh Government is to be found in Appendix 3.  The covering letter stated that ' The authority has taken a conscientious approach to the achievement of the Standards, supported by strong analysis of performance levels.  It has consolidated its progress over the three years of the Third Assessment Framework, and the impact of its recent investment and improvement programme is likely to result in further positive developments'.

10.        The Authority achieved 10 out of the 14 Standards in 2010-11, partly achieved a further 2 Standards, and did not achieve the remaining 2 Standards.  This compares to an average of 9 Standards achieved across Wales, with the highest number achieved being 14 and the lowest 6.

11.        Two Standards were not achieved:

(i) Standard 5 - the total number of library items available for use among adults and children per 1,000 population. Failure to achieve this Standard is linked with the fact that we also fall below the standard for the available floor areas in our libraries.  We would need significantly more space if we were to accommodate the amount of stock suggested by this Standard.  However, user satisfaction with the choice of books is high and it is likely that the stock management processes in place together with good use of the funding available for the purchase of library materials ensure that customers have the choice of materials they want.

(ii) Standard 11 - Staffing levels and the percentage of staff holding a library and information services qualification.  Staffing levels are just at the Welsh median but the percentage of staff holding posts that require library qualifications at degree level or equivalent are significantly below the Standard.  However, the Assessors have noted and appeared to accept our view that the structure of the workforce is appropriate for the needs of the service.

12.        Two Standards were partly achieved:

(i) Standard 7 - Time taken to replenish stock available for adults and for children.  The replenishment rate for children's stock was not achieved but the Assessors note that the margin of failure was very narrow and that the Standard could be achieved in the near future.  The service is in the process of taking steps to rectify this.

(ii)  Standard 12 - the basis for awarding this Standard is whether a Service achieves the stipulated minimum publicly accessible floor areas within its libraries.  While the Authority falls short in this respect, the Assessors have partly awarded this Standard in recognition of the Authority's investment in its buildings, notably the County Library in Barry. 

13.        The Annual Return for 2010-11 and subsequent feedback from the Welsh Government was the last in the Third Framework of the Public Library Standards. The Fourth Framework of Public Library Standards came into operation in April 2011 and will cover the period to March 2014.  A summary of the Standards in the Fourth Framework and anticipated performance for the Vale of Glamorgan based on current information is attached in Appendix 4.   

14.        Recognition has been given in the new Framework to the fact that it will operate in an extremely challenging financial climate, with implications for management approaches and expected performance levels.  The number of Standards are reduced from 14 to 9, with a narrower focus based on public feedback as to what constitutes the essential core public library services.  The number of performance indicators that underpin the Standards are also reduced from 13 to 8.  Performance standards in a number of areas are also reduced, for example aggregate opening hours per 1,000 population reduced from 136 hours to 120 hours, and speed of supply of requested items reduced from a target of 67% to 64% within 7 days.  There is also for the first time recognition of the role of volunteers in assisting with some aspects of service delivery and a requirement to meet certain quality standards for their management.

15.        Based on information currently to hand, likely performance for the Vale of Glamorgan  in the Fourth Framework is that 7 of the 9 Standards will be achieved and the remaining 2 Standards will be partly achieved.  Details can be seen in Appendix 4. The Standards that will be partly achieved are those that have been problematic in the Third Framework - those relating to staffing and to publicly accessible floor areas.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

16.        Performance in some areas is directly related to the level of investment in the service.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.        The Council is a Library Authority under the terms of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and as such has a statutory duty to ‘provide a comprehensive and efficient library service’.  The Public Library Standards provide a framework within which to evaluate the performance of the service and to secure continuous improvement.

Crime and Disorder Implications

18.        There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

19.        The Standards address issues relating to equality of access to the Library and Information Service, compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act, and the provision of books and other materials in the Welsh language.

Corporate/Service Objectives

20.        The Library and Information Service contributes to a number of corporate objectives, especially in the areas of Community Leadership, Children and Young People and Lifelong Learning and Skills.

Policy Framework and Budget

21.        This report relates to the Service Objective within the Strategic Planning and Performance Service Plan - 'To deliver a library and information service appropriate to the needs of Vale citizens' and specifically Action SPP/A which refers to assessing the performance of the Library and Information Service against the Fourth Framework of the Library Standards.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

22.        The Library and Information Service consults with its users through regular user surveys arranged in accordance with a national framework of Public Library User Surveys.  The Standards include a number of user satisfaction indicators for adults and children which are derived from the results of these surveys.  Data is also required from the Council’s Public Opinion Survey.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

23.        Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

‘Achieving higher standards: a performance measurement and assessment framework for public libraries in Wales – April 2008 – March 2011’. Welsh Assembly Government, 2008

'Maintaining a Valued Service: the Fourth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2011-14'.  Welsh Assembly Government, 2010

Contact Officer

Sian Jones, Chief Librarian, 01446 709381

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Strategic Planning and Performance, 01446 709161

Responsible Officer:

Bryan Jeffreys, Director of Learning and Development