Public sector policymakers have been preoccupied with quality, performance and impact initiatives, which constrain and define the strategic and operational objectives of public sector bodies. This theoretical article aims to review the quality, performance management and impact assessment regimes that currently impact on public and academic libraries in the UK, and to explore the challenges for managers in finding their path through this quality maze. Much of the literature focuses on individual initiatives, with little reference to the wider quality management context. Also seeks to urge consideration of the cumulative impact of such initiatives, with their different notions of quality, on public sector organisations and their quality management processes.
The article is an opinion piece that offers some conceptual frameworks, based on an analysis of literature, practice and web sites gathered over many years' investigation and observation. The tension between externally‐focused quality assurance and internally‐focused quality enhancement is taken as a point of departure. A further source of complexity is the quality management agendas that impact on library and information services from different levels in the organisation, otherwise described as the quality hierarchy.
A review of the approaches to collecting customer evaluations of service quality, enhancing quality and performance, and the accreditation of quality and performance illustrates the complexity associated with accommodating agendas arising from different contexts, and the competing notions of quality that are embedded in these different approaches.
The range of different influences on quality management, the sheer complexity and dynamism of the landscape and the management challenges associated with maintaining an appropriate quality management regime for any specific information service, are key messages that emerge from this review. Information managers in different posts experience the quality maze differently. Further research and reflection on practice are necessary.
This paper provides useful information for those managers trying to implement quality, performance and impact assessment regimes.
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