Chapter 4: Developing Guidelines

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Procedures for developing standards and guidelines

These procedures outline the steps involved in developing standards/guidelines with the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Agencies. Source: Standards Review Committee, December, 1989

I.     Initiating the Process

  1. The ASCLA Standards Review Committee (SRC) annually reviews existing standards and guidelines for their timeliness, usefulness, and need for revision. The Standards Review Committee should encourage the collection of data in cooperative and specialized libraries to facilitate the development or revision of standards.
  2. An ASCLA section or committee may initiate the standards review process by submitting a written statement to the chairperson of the SRC that includes the following:

    1)     the need which requires new or revised standards/guidelines;

    2)     the focus, scope, and timetable of the proposed project;

    3)     the human or other resources which the section or committee might be prepared to make available to the SRC in executing the project.

    The Standards Review Committee may also develop the written statement as a result of the review in A above.

  3. The chairperson of the Standards Review Committee forwards a copy of the proposed project to the ASCLA president and executive director and schedules discussion of the proposal at the next meeting of the SRC.
  4. After reviewing the proposal, the Standards Review Committee either accepts the proposal and establishes a subcommittee to implement it, or notifies the originating section or committee that the proposal was not accepted for implementation, along with an explanation of the reasons for this decision.
  5. The chairperson of the Standards Review Committee reports this action to the ASCLA Board of Directors at its next scheduled meeting, and in the case of establishment of a subcommittee, includes in the report the purpose of the subcommittee and potential budget needs. The ASCLA Board reviews this action at its earliest convenience and indicates its concurrence with, or disapproval of, the action.

II.     Establishing the Subcommittee (A subcommittee of the Standards Review Committee)

  1. The initiating section or committee prepares a list of suggested members for the subcommittee and meets with the SRC to discuss criteria for membership, a proposed chairperson, proposed members, and a subcommittee charge. The Standards Review Committee chairperson appoints the subcommittee members and chairperson, and advises the ASCLA president and executive director of the appointments. These items should be considered when selecting members for the subcommittee:

    1)     experience and knowledge of individuals in the field(s) covered by the standards/guidelines;

    2)     size of subcommittee (seven to nine members is a recommended number for effective group interaction;)

    3)     ability of individuals to attend ALA conferences. (This is not mandatory since some members can still offer valuable contributions through mail, e-mail, and conference calls.)

    4)     length of appointments; (Terms are usually for two years, and members may be reappointed to more than one term.)

    5)     writing and editing ability;

    6)     familiarity with statistical techniques.

    Membership is usually drawn from:

    1)     ASCLA members or potential members;

    2)     liaison members from other ALA units;

    3)     members representing outside organizations or agencies (e.g. COSLA, American Correctional Association, Medical Library Association);

    4)     consumer members (individual consumers or representatives of consumer organizations);

    5)     a liaison member from the SRC; and/or

    6)     people who are currently working in the field.

    The subcommittee may also want to invite individuals to serve as advisors to the subcommittee on various aspects of the project.

III.     Subcommittee Relationship to Other Groups

  1. ASCLA Standards Review Committee (SRC)

    This committee assists the subcommittee with all stages of standards development including:

    1)     advising on policies and procedures;

    2)     reviewing draft documents;

    3)     monitoring its progress;

    4)     providing direction for sources of data;

    5)     answering technical questions;

    6)     recommending approval of final documents;

    7)     serving as a liaison to the ASCLA Board; and

    8)     designating an SRC member to serve as a liaison to the Subcommittee.

    The subcommittee chairperson:

    1)     reports to the SRC at each conference;

    2)     sends copies of subcommittee minutes to the chairperson of the SRC; and

    3)     sends copies of successive drafts of the standards/ guidelines to SRC members.

  2. ASCLA Board of Directors

    The ASCLA Board approves the final draft of the standards/guidelines. The subcommittee chairperson sends copies of the drafts to the ASCLA executive director for distribution to Board members.

  3. Other ALA Units

    The subcommittee notifies other ALA units of its establishment and its proposed activities, as appropriate.

IV.     Procedural Considerations

  1. The subcommittee chairperson coordinates most scheduling, clerical, and mailing functions, and delegates responsibilities for specific tasks to individual members.
  2. The subcommittee develops a timetable for all activities, revising it as necessary. Most subcommittees take at least three years to complete their projects. To accomplish this, subcommittees may also need to schedule conference calls and working sessions between conferences.
  3. To make the best use of members' time, the subcommittee schedules at least two lengthy meetings at each conference, prepares electronic files of drafts, and provides members with items to review well before any scheduled meetings.
  4. The subcommittee establishes general policies for conducting its meetings, including policies on participation by observers, determining consensus on issues, the role of advisors, etc.
  5. The subcommittee compiles lists of individuals, agencies, and organizations to which to send draft documents for field review. This includes other interested ALA units.
  6. The subcommittee decides on the format it will use and determines whether to produce standards or guidelines or a document that combines the two. These decisions are usually made after a working document is written.
  7. Funds may be available for the printing and distribution of drafts. The subcommittee chairperson submits a budget estimate to the ASCLA president through the SRC chairperson. Once approved, expenditures are made on a reimbursement basis to the subcommittee members or their parent organizations. Where there are not ASCLA funds available to support the development of standards/ guidelines, the subcommittee needs to look for support from outside sources or in-kind contributions (for mailings, printing, conference calls, and travel) from its members' parent organizations.
  8. The subcommittee chairperson should be aware of and consider political and philosophical differences existing in the field of standards-related issues. If such differences are substantial, additional time should be anticipated for the subcommittee to reach consensus.

V.     Gathering and Reviewing Background Information

  1. All subcommittee members should be familiar with the ALA Standards Manual, the key document that explains procedures, format, and style considerations.
  2. If existing standards/guidelines are being revised, the SRC chairperson arranges for all subcommittee members to receive copies of that document.
  3. The subcommittee reviews other standards/guidelines for sample wording, style, format, and methodology. These might include:

    1)     other ASCLA standards or guidelines;

    2)     standards/guidelines from other ALA divisions;

    3)     standards/guidelines produced by other library organizations such as the Medical Library Association or state library associations;

    4)     standards/guidelines produced by other organizations such as the American Correctional Association, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health care Organizations, and the American National Standards Institute.

  4. The subcommittee conducts a literature search of the significant writing and research in the field. If the subcommittee feels that there is insufficient information available, it conducts surveys and/or research to determine needs, assess problems with existing standards, and determine the current status of the field. The subcommittee may work with other ASCLA units to identify relevant data.
  5. The subcommittee schedules sufficient time to examine the broad issues and reach consensus on the philosophical differences to be covered by the standards/guidelines.

VI.     Writing the Standards/Guidelines

  1. The subcommittee determines a clear focus, scope, purpose and target audience for the standards/guidelines. This will set the tone and style for all further activity.
  2. The subcommittee prepares an initial working paper. This usually involves determining the format to be used and the individual subject headings. Individual committee members are usually assigned specific sections to write.
  3. After the subcommittee develops a working paper, it revises and edits it to prepare a first draft for field review. The first draft is a complete document that represents the subcommittee's best work and follows the format as outlined in the ALA Standards Manual. All drafts should be identified with "ASCLA Standards Review Committee," the name of the subcommittee, and the date. The introduction section of the draft includes a clear description of the process followed (methodology) and a summary of the options and issues that were considered.

VII.     Conducting Field Reviews

  1. Field reviews are necessary to gather opinions, advice, and comments from consumers, librarians, other professionals, and individuals, agencies, and organizations actively involved in the area covered. There is no optimum number of field reviewers, but the subcommittee should make every effort to reach a significant number and range of reviewers representing the target audience for the standards/ guidelines.

    This can be done by sending:

    1)     drafts to all state library agencies for their comments and for them to further disseminate to target groups in their state;

    2)     drafts to national and state organizations and agencies with an interest in the field. This includes professional, consumer, and library organizations;

    3)     drafts to key individuals who are leaders and practitioners in the field;

    4)     information on the availability of the document to appropriate publications and individuals.

  2. The subcommittee provides reviewers with an easy-to-tabulate format for responses. After a four to six week response period, the subcommittee compiles the responses and considers changes and refinements in the draft.
  3. If substantial changes are made in the document after the first field review, the subcommittee should consider conducting a second field review with the individuals and agencies that responded.

VIII. Public Hearing(s)

  1. A public hearing provides an additional opportunity for feedback from the field and for reviewers to formally address the subcommittee. The hearing is often held at the ALA conference following the first field review. The subcommittee schedules the hearing as an additional committee meeting and announces it through Interface and the cover letter to field reviewers.
  2. The subcommittee may also hold hearings at related meetings of professional and consumer organizations.

IX.     Preparation and Approval of the Final Document

  1. After all revisions have been made, the subcommittee has a member or outside person edit the document for grammar, style and consistency. The final document is clear and easy-to-read for the intended audience and adheres to the requirements of the ALA Standards Manual.
  2. At least several weeks before the scheduled meetings at Annual or Midwinter conference, the subcommittee chairperson submits the final document to the SRC and the ASCLA executive director for distribution to the Board.

    The subcommittee asks the committee to make their decisions early in the conference so there is time to present the proposed standards to the ASCLA Board. The subcommittee chairperson and the SRC chairperson should be present at the ALA Committee on Standards and ASCLA Board meetings when the proposed standards are scheduled for discussion.

    If the document is not approved by the SRC, and agreement cannot be negotiated, the SRC and the subcommittee both comment separately to the ASCLA Board. If the document is approved by the SRC but not by the ASCLA Board, the subcommittee negotiates the recommended changes with the ASCLA Board.

    The ASCLA Board makes the final approval in the process.

  3. The subcommittee prepares camera-ready copy of the standards/guidelines. The subcommittee chairperson contacts the ASCLA executive director to make arrangements to have the document printed.
  4. The ASCLA executive director sends complimentary copies of the printed document to the subcommittee members.
  5. To publicize the availability of the standards/guidelines and promote its sale, the subcommittee assists with some of these activities:

    1)     writes an ALA press release about the standards/ guidelines;

    2)     identifies the potential markets for the document and contacts appropriate organizations with a flyer or press release about the standards/guidelines;

    3)     sends complimentary copies to key publications for them to review;

    4)     sends thank you notes and a press release to the field reviewers;

    5)     encourages development of training opportunities on the use of the new standards/guidelines.

  6. Upon completion of all work on the standards/guidelines, the subcommittee chairperson sends the working files to the ASCLA office.

Current ASCLA Standards and Guidelines

ASCLA standards and guidelines can be ordered from the  ALA Online Store. A  list of current guidelines is available under the Professional Tools section of the ASCLA Web site.