Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Heather Elia: The Do's and Don'ts of Documentation

Heather Elia, who is the incoming library director for the New Woodstock (NY) Public Library, worked with me for two years as part of the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. Out of her research efforts came this article, which has been published in the The Political Librarian, entitled "The Do's and Don'ts of Documentation." Often documentation never occurs, but Heather argues that it is important and provides a series of best practices in this article.  

If you know of others who could benefit from this article, please pass it along. This is an area where our libraries need to improve.


Whether through grant funding or taxpayers dollars, public libraries are entrusted with money to spend on programs and services. Funders, as well as other stakeholders, will be interested in accountability, wanting to know what the library has been doing with these funds and what the stakeholders got for their money. The author argues that fully documenting programs and services -- which many libraries fail to do -- provides a tangible answer to these questions, as well as a record that can be used to expand or replicate successful initiatives. A series of best practices for documentation are proposed, which include the need for planning, marketing, and assessment information, as well as the collection and distribution of visual as well as textual material. Different levels of documentation are discussed, and the differences are identified between what is merely acceptable and what is good, or even excellent. A list of the various audience members, with whom documentation might be shared, is included. The author concludes that documenting a library’s successful programs is a good professional as well as political move, when the library needs to make a case for funding or government support.

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