Standards and Best Practices for Public Libraries in Alberta

Need for standards
Public library service in Alberta is delivered by 231 municipal and library system boards. They operate 312 public library service points in large urban municipalities and small rural communities. The boards often request information on basic service standards and best practices in order to compare their library with those of similar size.

The need for this information has also been identified by the system directors in their document Standards for Member Libraries within Alberta’s Regional Library Systems (2003) and acknowledged in Recommendations #3 and #8 of the MLA Committee report Framework for the Future: Positioning Alberta Libraries for the 21st Century (2009).

These standards and best practices:

  • address equity in delivery of library services for residents of Alberta
  • provide a point of reference for self-evaluation
  • provide a framework for future development
  • support change in policy, technology and formats of materials
  • encourage cooperation
  • support and guide library boards and staff
  • inform boards and municipalities
  • encourage excellence in library service

This document contains three sections:

Part 1 - Standards
The Libraries Act and Libraries Regulation (amended last in 2006):

  • establish the legal infrastructure for the provision of service at the municipal, intermunicipal, federation and system levels
  • set legal standards for municipal library boards
  • provide for municipalities to cooperate to provide service on a regional basis and for library boards to cooperate, collaborate and enter agreements for service

Compliance to standards, which is monitored by the Public Library Services Branch, is mandatory. Library boards must comply with standards to receive provincial operating funds.  The standards require: written bylaws, a plan of service, written policies, reports to the Minister and municipal council, a written budget and estimate of funds, financial reporting, a professional librarian (contingent on population size), agreements in place, governance structure and hours of opening (school-housed).

Part 2 - Best Practices
This section identifies two levels of service, essential and exemplary.  Library boards determine which level will be provided.  Needs assessments and community considerations influence this decision:

Essential service levels fulfill those requirements absolutely necessary to provide basic library service

Exemplary service offers recommendations/suggestions to enhance the basic elements and to strive for outstanding library service.  

The areas of best practices include:

  • governance
  • collaboration
  • plan of service
  • personnel
  • collection management
  • information services
  • resource-sharing
  • technology
  • hours of opening
  • facilities

These best practices do not represent standards required by the province.  They provide choices that each board can consider in whether to go beyond the status quo, while taking into account the community’s expectations, sustainability and growth.

Each local library board is responsible for determining the metrics and the measure of their success. 

Part 3 - Appendices

Contact:  780-427-4871