Gillian Daly, our Head of Policy & Projects, has recently returned from a funded study tour in Argentina to share the approach public libraries in Scotland are taking to improve service delivery. Here she talks about her experiences in South America.
Back in March I embarked on an incredible study tour of Buenos Aires in Argentina. I had been invited by the British Council, in collaboration with Fundacion FILBA, to showcase Scotland’s national strategy.
Both the British Council and FILBA are keen to support the development of Argentinian libraries. Talking about our national strategy was not only a way of demonstrating best practice but also successful service coordination and workforce development.
During my week-long trip I presented a guest lecture to Argentinian librarians on the vision for libraries encapsulated in Ambition and Opportunity. The lecture was fully-booked and there was so much enthusiasm for the work we are doing in Scotland, particularly the recent Hackathon and our Code Club project.
I found that the unity of vision presented via the national strategy really appealed in a context where libraries are more disparate. Public libraries in Argentina originated as a grassroots movement and although there are now some publically funded libraries in cities like Buenos Aires, there are very few in the provinces.
However, many libraries choose to register with CONABIP – the National Commission of Popular Libraries in Argentina. This allows them to become a ‘popular’ library which brings some central support and funding opportunities.
During my tour I was lucky enough to visit a few libraries in the Buenos Aires area, including the National Library, the National Library of Teachers and community libraries. This gave me the opportunity to meet staff, share good practice and learn about just some of the amazing reading programmes on offer.
I also developed and delivered a workshop to foster collaborative working practices and improve professional development. In a country where many services are entirely volunteer-led, staff were keen to learn new ways in which to work together.
By talking to librarians and meeting with national agencies such as the Williams Foundation and TyPA, I gained a valuable insight into Argentina’s library and information sector. Ultimately, this has broadened my outlook on possible service delivery options beyond normal UK conventions.
Since returning to Scotland I have produced a report outlining recommendations for the development of libraries in Argentina, including the collection of data on service provision, monitoring performance and promoting the library with decision-makers. As a result, I have been inundated with requests for a copy of our How Good Is Our Public Library Service evidence templates!
The tour was an amazing experience and one which I will continue to reflect upon for years to come. Looking ahead, I plan to build upon my relationship with colleagues in Buenos Aires – learning just as much from them as they do of me.