Model Policies for Small and Medium Public Libraries

G.E. Gorman (Victoria University of Wellington)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Gorman, G.E. (2000), "Model Policies for Small and Medium Public Libraries", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 6, pp. 303-310.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

“This book provides a systematic way to explore the policies already in place in your library; revise those that need to be updated and develop policies that may be needed but are missing in your organization” (p. xi). Behind this rationale lies the authors’ view that many information professionals put off policy formulation because it takes too much time or because it is perceived as too difficult – and indeed this will be the case in many one‐person libraries, and not just the public libraries at which this collection is aimed.

The two opening chapters discuss policies and their importance and how to develop policies in very straightforward lay terms; indeed, one suspects that the audience for this book must be non‐professionals, as it is written in such a simple manner. While this is useful, it may indicate that the content is slightly “sub‐professional” and therefore may overlook some of the more important nuances of policies and policy development. Following these chapters, the authors present individual chapters on policies for the following: personnel and employment, staff conduct, access to services, use of materials, collection development, information services, access and use of facilities, user conduct. Eight appendices cover codes of ethics, the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, guidelines for developing policies of different sorts, etc. An excellent, if almost entirely American and significantly Texan, bibliography and brief index conclude the work.

In each chapter the authors focus first on background and then on issues, enabling every reader to understand the context for a particular kind of policy and the issues it needs to address. Each discussion includes a “model policy”, usually less than a page, showing what one might want to include in such a document. In other words any user of this book would be able to devise a series of policies using the content of this book both to give direction and to provide examples of what to say and how to say it. This is eminently practical, and the authors offer sound, simple advice that will appeal to many.

Two caveats, however, are in order. First, what the authors call policies are often little more than procedural statements or management expectations of certain standards of behaviour. A policy, as distinct from a procedural statement, offers detailed contextual background, rationale for the proposed procedure and a detailed description of the procedure. What we have here are essentially a series of statements that belong in an employee’s handbook. On collection development, for example, the authors focus on selection procedures (which they call a “selection policy”), gifts and weeding. As any collection manager knows, collection development policies require rather more than this, and are often extremely detailed. Second, the assumption seems to be that if it is written down, then everyone will follow the leader and behave in a certain way. In reality there is a considerable amount of public persuasion involved, and the policies are never more than working documents because they are always evolving – the authors take a somewhat simplistic view of policy as a static document.

These warnings aside, Model Policies will be useful for any small library whose manager can overcome the American bias and draw from this collection inspiration for specific policies to be put in place. With the exception of collection development, one should not need to refer to many other resources if simple procedural statements are needed.

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