Improving practices. Statistical standards in global libraries

HØIVIK, Tord (2013) Improving practices. Statistical standards in global libraries. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2013 - Singapore - Future Libraries: Infinite Possibilities in Session 177 - Committee on Standards.

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Language: English (Original)
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Improving practices. Statistical standards in global libraries

Standards are recommendations. Library standards are recommended ways of working in libraries. Standards often differ from practices, or the ways libraries actually work. This is not a problem in itself. The purpose of standards is not to describe, but to improve practices. But standards have no value in themselves. Standards are only interesting if they change the way librarians actually do their work. We may distinguish between active and passive standards. Nearly all standards are developed by committees that include practising librarians. But active standards interact with their environments. They are openly discussed, widely applied and frequently revised by the library community. Passive standards are locked up in documents that few practitioners read or care about. For many years library organizations have tried to change the statistical practices of librarians through committees, concepts and proposals from the top. This approach seldom works. The introduction of standards is a political rather than a technical process. Standardization incurs costs and affects peoples’ interests. Librarians are not willing to change their routines just because committees without power or money say so. To move faster we have to shift from a top-down to a bottom-up approach. That means to start with current statistical practices and to improve existing data and procedures, step by step and year by year. The paper presents conceptual and empirical evidence for this thesis. We look at the interaction between standards and practices in library statistics, with examples from IFLA, OCLC and ISO. A longer version of the paper includes information from countries that have tried to introduce statistical standards during the last decade.

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