The ICC has been commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE) to evaluate their Libraries Development Initiative (LDI). ACE acquired strategic responsibility for the development and support of libraries following the closure of MLA in October 2011. The LDI programme was launched by ACE in February 2012 as a proactive initiative designed to encourage greater synergy between libraries and the arts, and to test innovative partnership approaches to library service delivery. The programme is organised under four key themes including New delivery models for arts and culture working together; Coordinating partnerships to achieve national policy outcomes; Books and reading; and Commercial partnerships. Thirteen individual projects have been funded by the programme, including many public libraries across the nine English regions, and a wide range of delivery partners including arts organisations, social services and education providers.
The evaluation process is now underway, and is being led by Kerry Wilson of the ICC. Kerry is working with ICC Associates Tamsin Cox and Kate Rodenhurst of DHA, and Paul Kyprianou from Liverpool’s Praxis CIC. There are three stages to the evaluation: the first was the design of an evaluation framework that maps the full process against core LDI objectives. Secondly each funded project is now starting a self-evaluation process, assessing progress and impact according to specific contexts and conditions of individual projects, aims and objectives and mechanisms by which these will be achieved, and project outputs and outcomes. Each project is receiving one-to-one support and guidance from a member of the evaluation team. Thirdly, all findings will be brought together by a meta-evaluation, which synthesises key learning outcomes from individual projects against the four LDI themes.
As each project evaluates its own learning outcomes, key stakeholders are being encouraged to consider throughout the implications for sustainability of library services, including potential for continued collaborative working, along with the unique selling points (USP) and ‘value added’ by the public library service. This will enable the team to make recommendations to the wider sector, and complement other ACE library initiatives including the Envisioning the Library of the Future project. Prior to joining Liverpool John Moores University in 2008, Kerry did a lot of research with the public library service as a member of the Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society at the University of Sheffield. She is delighted to receive this commission and keen to ensure that the ICC continues to work with and support public libraries.