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Andy Parkinson

Reading CASE right

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Andy Parkinson, director of Consilium Research and Consultancy Limited explains how CASE can help shape decision making as part of modernising library services.

The need to develop a clear vision for future service delivery has never been more important, especially in light of the continuing squeeze on public sector budgets and on-going reorganisation of local authorities.

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The challenges facing the public library sector in particular are well documented, most recently at a national level with the 2010 modernisation review of public libraries.

In looking to the future the shape of public libraries, it’s imperative that at a local level decisions are based on a robust and comprehensive review of evidence and best practice, both across the UK and internationally.

So how does CASE help?

If your job is to support and inform library service modernisation you’ll find that CASE helps support this local level decision making. The CASE database provides a comprehensive resource and evidence base which helps local policy makers establish a vision and strategy for their library service. In tandem the research studies available through the database not only help when designing the service but provide practical examples of how others have addressed similar challenges.

These include responding to changes in usage by the local community, the growth of digital services, competition from private and voluntary sector providers and budgetary constraints. The research base also includes toolkits and case studies on developing partnerships with other agencies (i.e. public health).

What’s more, if you need to ‘make the case’ for investment through local commissioning frameworks you’ll find that the database includes guidance and methodologies for measuring the impact of libraries across a range of service areas including children and young people, stronger and safer communities, local economy, environmental sustainability and health and wellbeing.

And if engagement is an issue, the policy research included within the Drivers, Impacts and Value tool provides a valuable resource which helps shed light on different approaches to increasing engagement. The wealth of research and data can help you develop interventions, designed to support and engage different users ranging from teens and older age groups to refugees.

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Any tips for using CASE?

First of all be clear about what you are looking for, so you can refine your search parameters when accessing the CASE resources. However at the same time recognise that there is value in browsing the resources as this can often uncover nuggets of information that may challenge your thinking or enable you to broaden the scope of your service planning exercise. Also recognise that whilst the resources can support local decision making, to be effective you need to interpret the research accurately, taking into account local factors and context.

Going back to where I started, it’s clear that the services public libraries provide are changing. For those implementing this modernisation it’s vital that these changes are based on sound evidence and in this respect, CASE is a rich vein that’s ripe for mining.

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