Our Future, Our Skills: Using Evidence to Drive Practice in Public Libraries
Keywords:public libraries, library skills, skills audit, Australia,
Objective – The public library sector’s future prosperity is contingent upon a well-trained, experienced, and valued workforce. In a collaborative initiative, State Library Victoria (SLV) and the Public Libraries Victoria Network (PLVN) commissioned an in-depth research study to examine the skills requirements of staff across the State. The Our Future, Our Skills project sought to identify the range of skills used by public library staff today, to anticipate the range of skills that would be needed in five years’ time, and to present a skills gap analysis to inform future training and development strategies.
Methods – The project encompassed qualitative and quantitative research activities: literature review and environmental scan, stakeholder interviews, focus groups and a workforce skills audit. The research populations were staff (Individual survey) and managers (Management survey) employed in 47 library services, including metropolitan, outer metropolitan and regional library services in Victoria.
Results – The high response rate (45%) reflected the relevance of the study, with 1,334 individual and 77 management respondents. The data captured their views related to the value of their skillsets, both now and in five years’ time, and the perceived levels of confidence using their skills. The sector now has a bank of baseline evidence which has contributed to a meaningful analysis of the anticipated skills gaps.
Conclusions – This paper focuses on the critical importance of implementing evidence-based practice in public libraries. In an interactive workshop, managers determined the skills priorities at both the local and sectoral levels to inform staff development programs and recruitment activities. A collaborative SLV/PLVN project workgroup will implement the report’s recommendations with a state-wide workforce development plan rolled out during 2015-17. This plan will include a training matrix designed to bridge the skills gap, with a focus on evaluation strategies to monitor progress towards objectives. The paper provides insights into the different ways in which the project workgroup is using research evidence to drive practice.
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