Ontario Public Library Guidelines As An Assessment Tool

The Ontario Public Library Guidelines Monitoring and Accreditation Council recently released the 7th edition of the Ontario Public Library Guidelines (OPLG). First introduced in 1997, the OPLG have been updated and improved with each edition, the latest changes having to do with responding to emerging trends and issues, such as the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and better organization of the guidelines themselves.

Until recently, the process of going through an audit using the OPLG was almost exclusively promoted as the means of achieving accreditation. While this remains true – in order to be accredited under the OPLG, a library has to pass an external audit – it is also true that the audit process itself can be a valuable, straightforward and useful assessment process, providing the library CEO and board with an excellent and measurable assessment (a numeric score) of the library’s performance against 186 peer-recommended guidelines (even more for a multi-branch system) refined over the past twenty-one years.

If you are unfamiliar with the Guidelines, now is a great time to get familiar! Made up of a series of yes/no questions, the Guidelines are organized into the following areas:

  • Governance and Administration
  • Planning Documents and Process
  • Policy
  • Personnel and Human Resources
  • Collections and Services
  • Physical and Facilities
  • General.

Ready to be used, either a category at a time, or all seven categories at once, the Guidelines Audit Tool is an interactive spreadsheet that tracks the library’s score and rates that score as Poor, Fair or Good in terms of likelihood of being accredited. The spreadsheet includes a visual dashboard of the results, as well as a summary of where the biggest improvements are needed, and whether revisions necessary are major or minor. The tool allows for easy tracking of how well the library is doing in meeting the OPLG requirements, and where in the audit process the library is currently.


Finding out what you don’t know is significantly more valuable than reaffirming what you do know. ~ Kitty Pope, CEO, Windsor Public Library


Windsor Public Library is currently conducting a policy review, using the new Guidelines Audit Tool to check existing WPL policies against those required by the OPLG, revising and updating as necessary. Says CEO Kitty Pope, “I appreciate that most of us dread the annual process of policy review, but with the assessment tool in hand, it is much quicker and the end results are significantly better.”

Ontario public libraries of all sizes are encouraged to try out the Guidelines Audit Tool, as the best way of becoming familiar with the Ontario Public Library Guidelines, and as a great way to see how your library measures up against these external benchmarks of excellence, as identified by your peers.

For more information about the Guidelines, see the Accreditation page of the SOLS website and the Ontario Public Library Guidelines website.

Why Advancing Public Library Leadership?

As the coordinator of the APLL Institute, I am often asked why APLL is so expensive and what makes it a good investment for public libraries.  I’d like to address both these questions. 

While $3,600 (plus HST) might seem a lot of money, it is actually quite reasonable if you consider what it covers over a two-year period: 

  • Instant access to a supportive peer network that extends beyond the 2 years of the program
  • registration and all materials for 12 online courses;
  • presenters’ fees and materials for the face-to-face classroom sessions;
  • meals and accommodations for the classroom sessions;
  • and individualized leadership coaching and mentoring throughout the two years.

Another way of thinking about it is that APLL spans 24 months – which means that the program costs are $150 per month. That’s a pretty good deal for all of the benefits listed above. 

APLL was designed to have lasting impact on the individuals who graduate from the program and their libraries. Informed by leadership development research and the experience of other leadership program participants, APLL is premised on peer learning, experiential learning and many opportunities to practice leadership in a safe environment. Graduates report greater confidence, a better understanding of the municipal environment, being aware of themselves as better managers and leaders, and being appointed to positions of greater responsibility (including CEO).  While these outcomes are the results of any number of interdependent factors, graduates acknowledge APLL as a significant contribution to their development as effective leaders. In the words of Colleen Lipp, CEO of Caledon Public Library and an APLL graduate:

Thanks to the APLL program, I was able to successfully transition to the next level of library leadership.  The program gave me the confidence to take the next step, opened doors to new opportunities, and solidified my leadership skills so that I could succeed once in a new role.  My learnings were not limited to the course work, but were further enhanced by the extensive knowledge and varied experiences of my classmates.

In the words of Margie Singleton, CEO of Vaughan Public Libraries:

APLL offers not only leadership development opportunities but also practical information regarding Ontario’s municipal sector and the environment within which our public libraries operate. Information provided by the SOLS team and numerous guest speakers showcase the diverse municipal conditions and  interpretations of the same legislation in existence across the province.  APLL supplies a uniquely Ontario  and uniquely public library educational opportunity not available elsewhere.  At Vaughan we believe APLL equips staff with an excellent base knowledge, instrumental to their success in more senior management positions. Due to our great respect for this customized program, in 2016 Vaughan will subsidize 3 of our newest management staff to attend the APLL program.  We are confident this is a wise investment!

Leadership training is always a good investment because it is an investment in the library’s future.  Dynamic, innovative and relevant libraries are not possible without strong leaders!


SOLS Wants to Hear From You!

As public libraries continue to grapple with the challenges of ongoing, disruptive change, it is more imperative than ever that anyone who works in a library is prepared to commit to continuous learning! Almost everything about libraries is in flux, and in a very real way, we will, together, learn our way through these changes, designing and delivering programs and services that are innovative and engaging.  SOLS wants to help you address your learning needs and support you in ways that make learning accessible, relevant and of lasting value.  Through our many training offerings, the SOLS Competencies Index and related tools, and the Learn HQ training portal and platform, SOLS remains committed to being a trusted partner in the training and development landscape for public library staff across southern Ontario.

As part of our planning, we invite you – yes, you! – to complete a survey that will help us better understand your training needs and the training priorities for public libraries.  We are asking everyone – from frontline staff to CEO – to take approximately 15 minutes and complete the survey. To date, we have received 234 completed surveys – a great response so far! Everyone who submits a completed survey by Friday, May 6th will have a chance to win one free admission to a SOLS workshop!

Take SOLS survey

Thank you for helping us understand your needs and contributing to the future of SOLS! These are exciting times!

The APLL Institute – A Leadership Development Solution

Public libraries are at an important crossroads in their evolution. While libraries have long mastered the introduction of new formats and have become quite adept at integrating technology, the issues of the day call for a reinvention of what a library is understood to be. It is crucial that the library’s stakeholders, especially municipal councils and members of the community, come to understand the value and benefits produced by the library. I would argue it’s not so much that our core mission needs to change as it is a matter of ensuring the mission is well understood and endorsed. We need our funders to believe in the importance of what we do. We have always helped people learn, grow and express themselves creatively, but now more than ever before, the ability to learn and grow and be creative is required by an in increasingly creative economy. And we need our communities and funders to understand the role we play in building a robust and creative workforce and society.  

This work of reinventing our public image is work that belongs to library leaders. As a sector we need to ensure we have leaders capable of building credibility and value in the municipal environment. We need leaders capable of ensuring the library is well connected and engaging the community. We need leaders committed to continuous improvement and service innovation. 

The APLL Institute is a leadership development program of the southern Ontario Library Service. It’s a two year certificate program that combines the flexibility of online learning with highly interactive classroom sessions. The APLL Institute develops leaders capable of leading our libraries into a successful and thriving future.

The next cycle of APLL begins in the fall of 2016, with registration beginning in July. The fee of $3600 covers meals and accommodations for the classroom sessions expert presenters and 12 online courses. For more information see the APLL Institute or email Anne Marie Madziak.

It is our commitment to leadership development that will ensure a viable and vibrant future for our libraries. 

Introducing a Series on Competencies Based Professional Development

This is the first post in a series on competencies based professional development.

This past spring I attended the libraries 2025 symposium. It was a tantalizing look at the future and an opportunity to ponder some of the many opportunities public libraries might pursue. One of the most inspiring statements I heard that day was made by Julka Almquist, of the creative design firm IDEO; she boldly declared, “The future of libraries is librarians!”

I believe Julke is correct if we interpret her ‘librarians’ to mean, more broadly, the staff of public libraries, and I imagine that is what she meant.

Public libraries are on the precipice of a bright exciting future that requires staff to be community oriented, comfortable with technology, collaborative and agile. As well, the public has come to expect ever more innovative programs and services. If staff don’t adapt to these demands I fear a dismal future of diminished relevance and support. The training offerings of Southern Ontario Library Service can help libraries navigate these changes. The SOLS Competencies Index is the framework around which the training offerings are organized. The index exists to help public library staff develop the new knowledge skills and abilities necessary to be part of the bright, exciting future I mentioned. It helps individuals and library managers identify learning priorities and create learning paths to grow the necessary competencies.

This month SOLS is launching a blog series dedicated to helping library managers become familiar with the index and the many ways it can be used to build the capacity of library staff. The blog posts will draw on the experience of managers already using it to great effect. The posts will highlight the tools that have been developed to support users of the index. The comments feature that accompanies every blog post is a great opportunity to ask a question or tell us about your experience using the index.

We understand you are incredibly busy. We want to make it as easy as possible to use the index as a tool to grow the library’s human capital which also happens to be its biggest investment; public libraries in Ontario spend an average of 70% of their budget on salaries and wages! In some libraries it is much higher.

If you’re interested in applying competencies based staff development, we’ve created a short online tutorial to help you get started. Send us your feedback (or comment below) and let us know what we can do to make the index and online tutorial even more useful.

The Power of TED

I’m a big TED talk fan … as are millions of others, apparently. This past Sunday, the longstanding news show, 60 Minutes featured a story about the TED talks phenomenon and it seems everywhere you turn, people are talking about TED talks. For good reason, it seems to me. They’re a fabulous resource – free, accessible, intelligent, thought provoking. Who’d have thought that listening to lectures would become such a widespread activity of choice for people of all ages and walks of life, all over the world? The combination of creative ideas and personal stories is a potent one and the 18 minute maximum length makes them easy to incorporate into our busy lives, either as part of our work day, or on our own time. 

Some of the talks are quite appropriate to the workplace, offering sage advice on the importance of teams, listening and learning, how to be creative and innovative, even how to motivate people to do their very best work. There’s actually a whole playlist dedicated to A Better You, which includes 13 talks, speaking about everything from the power of vulnerability to the importance of body language, to the difference between winning and succeeding, to why we should try to be wrong more often! 

While often viewed by individuals on their own devices, TED talks are also great tools for staff meetings and get-togethers. They’re entertaining and informative and they spark great conversation. While they might not fit a narrow definition of workplace training, they certainly qualify as growth and development. They’re also an excellent way of generating enthusiasm for particular values and ways of being and working together.  Moreover, as organizations that promote ideas, public libraries would do well to encourage their staff to ponder the countless ideas offered on the ted website. 

Think it, Do it – In Practice

Here we are a month after the OLA Super Conference and we might find ourselves reviewing cryptic notes we took, recalling thought provoking conversations, mulling over countless ideas and pursuing the better ones. A successful conference is more than an event – it is a catalyst for doing things differently. In keeping with this year’s conference theme, “Think it, do it” we need to do more than think about what we heard. At some point, we have to act on the best of the ideas if they are to make a difference in our work.

There were many sessions about change and innovation at this year’s conference. Speaker after speaker decried the need for libraries to be unconventional, agile, nimble, creative and experimental. And to do so, we were told – and rightly so – libraries need staff with new competencies. Our natural tendency as a profession is to play it safe, to only embark upon something new if we’re almost certain it will be successful. However, the 21st century library needs staff who are comfortable with change, ready to take calculated risks, equipped to develop prototypes, then test and tinker until we get it right. We need to cultivate in ourselves and each other a willingness to be experimental, to try things that may or may not be successful. This takes tremendous courage, support from one another and a commitment to learn new ways of doing things.

Within the SOLS Competencies Index, there are competencies related to developing a learning and growth mindset. Together they provide language and an approach to readying ourselves to be more adaptive, experimental and innovative. Check them out and then decide what actions you will take to develop these competencies: Learning & Growth Mindset.

If you’re already experimenting or testing out something new – we’d love to hear about it! Successes and failures both. Let us know if you’d like to share your experiences on the blog. 

Archambault – What are you reading?

La bande dessinée, or the graphic novel as we know it, was a large part of reading when I was young. So when we started selecting for Archambault’s shared French collection, I wanted to make sure that this genre was reflected in the collection.

At present, we have 1810 items in the collection, with 826 circulations, and many holds. The most popular title?

chemins du nord cover

Les Chemins du Nord, by Robert Brisebois


We are striving to maintain an up to date popular materials collection. Here are some other recent additions:

Walter cover

Walter, Tome 1 by Bryan Perro

A graphic novel for all ages.


abel et leo cover

Abel et Leo, 01 by Lucie Bergeron

A child’s first chapter book.


chuck's day off cover

Les Recettes de Chuck’s Day Off, by Chuck Hughes

Popular non-fiction – get cooking!


ombre du clocher series covers

A l’ombre du clocher, by Michel David

Wherever possible we are purchasing entire series, to make sure there aren’t any avoidable cliff hangers.


If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me, at 1-877-532-2901, or by email at hgolden@olservice.ca.