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Agenda Item No. 8

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 8 December 2014

 

Report of the Director of Learning and Skills

 

Welsh Public Library Standards Assessment 2013-2014

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To endorse the Annual Return 2013-14 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.         To inform Members of the feedback on the Library and Information Service performance for 2013-2014 received from the Welsh Government.

Recommendations

1.         That Members endorse the Annual Return 2013-14 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.         That Members note the performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Public Library Standards framework and forward the report to Cabinet for its consideration.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2013-14.

2.         To keep Members informed of performance and progress.

Background

3.         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 standards serve to some extent as an interpretation of the Public Libraries and Museums Act. Their purpose 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.

4.         The Standards are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government on a three year cycle.  The Annual Return submitted for 2013-14 is the third and final return under the Fourth Framework which operated from April 2011 to March 2014. A Fifth Framework has been developed to operate from April 2014. This will be reported on for the first time in July 2015.

5.         There are nine Standards in the Fourth Framework and they measure performance in key aspects of service to residents in the Vale.  A set of eight Performance Indicators are 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

6.         The Annual Return for 2013-14 is attached at Appendix 1.  It is completed using a template provided by the Welsh Government and requires sufficient information to enable the Assessors to evaluate performance and identify factors that may impact on performance. 

7.         The Assessment from the Welsh Government on the Library and Information Service's performance in 2013-14 is to be found in Appendix 2.  The Authority achieved 6 out of 9 standards and partly achieved 2 others. It is pointed out in the report that this was the same number achieved in the previous two years.  The average number for Wales as a whole in the previous two years was 6 but in the final year of the framework it increased to 6.5. The Vale therefore achieved slightly under the average. The highest number of standards achieved across Wales was 9 and the lowest was 4.

8.         During 2013-14 the Library Service achieved a seventh standard for the first time by providing WiFi at Llantwit Major and Dinas Powys libraries, WPLS 4. However, a standard which had previously been achieved, the standard on supply of requested materials, WPLS 7, was not met due to temporary capacity and system issues in the key team which orders and supplies requested books. These issues have now been corrected by use of a credit card to order reserved books quickly and systems are in place to ensure customers get their reserved books promptly. It is unfortunate that gaining a standard and losing a standard meant that the library service, if judged on the number of standards only, suggests that no overall change was made in the final year of the framework.

9.         The standards which the library service partly achieved were the standards for staffing (WPLS 8) and space and buildings (WPLS 9). The standard for professionally qualified staff required that 23% of library posts were professional posts with a formal qualification in library and information studies. In the Vale only 20% of posts, and thus staff, held such a qualification. 

10.      The service also did not meet all the standards for space and buildings. The requirement for space stated that the service should provide 27 square metres of library space per 1000 residents.  The Vale provides 24.2 square metres: this standard could therefore only have been achieved with significant capital investment for library extensions or remodelling. The second aspect of the standard which the library service did not meet was the requirement to have disability audits of all libraries during the 3 year period. Property Services were not able to schedule this work during the last two years of the framework but have given an undertaking to so in the next year.

11.      The report comments on the 8 Performance Indicators and notes "marginal changes" in many indicators and encouraging performance in financial indicators.  Recognition is given in the assessment to the maintenance of key expenditure levels on library books and other resources.  This has resulted in good levels of performance in the standards relating to library stock such as WPLS5 - book acquisitions and WPLS6 - stock replenishment rates. A 1% increase in expenditure on the purchase of library stock was achieved by redirecting savings achieved by releasing a rental property and using this expenditure on books and online resources, including eBooks.   

12.      Performance in relation to a number of Welsh Public Library Performance Indicators increased over the previous year, including a 3% increase in ICT use. The percentage performance in the Vale is still lower than the Welsh average but this is accounted for by the Vale having a greater availability of PCs, which in turn lowers the percentage use of available time.  

13.      Though the number of physical visits made to libraries (WPLPI 1) and the number of items issued (WPLPI 4) have declined over the previous year they still remain healthy and this reflects the wide range of activities and resources in libraries and the continued good choice of lending materials. The numbers of virtual visitors has increased and so has the numbers attending library events and activities and these figures have offset any declines to put total visits above the Welsh average.

14.      It should be noted that the authority's performance in WPLPI 8 Net expenditure on public library provision per 1,000 population remains well above the average.  However, this figure should be treated with some caution as there are some uncertainties around the comparability of the data.  The figure reported for this authority includes a very high element of central charges. Variations between authorities in the make-up and amount of central charges may skew comparison between authorities in terms of making a valid assessment of the direct delivery costs of services.

15.      Reference is made in the covering letter addressed to the Managing Director, Appendix 3, that the Welsh Government has now introduced a fifth quality framework for the period 2014-2017. The fifth framework carries many of the established standards forward but also asks for new information including cost per visit, number of hours spent accessing services by WiFi and standards relating to user attendances at events, training and activities.  It is not possible at present to say how the library service will perform against the standards in 2014/15 or in the years which follow.    

16.      The Annual Report, Appendix 2, cites the progress in the Vale over the 3 year term of the Fourth Framework as "limited".

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

17.      Under the Reshaping of Services remit Libraries will contribute their share of savings for the Council. There is on-going consultation as part of the Libraries Review Strategy and this will inform and enable recommendations on the appropriate way forward.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.      There are no direct implications arising from this Report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.      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

20.      There are no direct implications arising from this Report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.      The Standards address issues relating to equality of access to the Library and Information Service, compliance with disability legislation, and the provision of books and other materials in the Welsh language.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.      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

23.      This report falls within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.      Not applicable. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

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

 

Libraries making a difference:  The fifth quality framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2014-2017. Welsh Government, 2014.

 

Expert Review of Public Libraries in Wales 2014. Welsh Government, 2014.

 

Contact Officer

Christopher Edwards, Chief Librarian. 01446 709381

 

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Service - Strategy, Community Learning and Resources

Andrew Borsden - Lead Officer, Youth and Community Learning

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills

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