Lifelong learning in public libraries in 12 European Union countries: issues in monitoring and evaluation
Public libraries in Europe have supported lifelong learning for the past 500 years. Since the Lisbon Strategy emphasized the role of lifelong learning in economic policy, public libraries have been repositioning their services to respond to this new context. In some cases, these roles are undertaken with limited legislative or strategic changes and stagnant levels of funding. As a result, the sector receives little recognition of its role in lifelong learning amongst policy-makers. A consortium representing 12 EU countries, ENTITLE, was formed to increase awareness of the role public libraries play in this area. It undertook a survey amongst its members to scope relevant policies, strategies and evaluation efforts. This paper presents an analysis of this survey. It shifts the focus away from debates about the instrumental value of libraries. Instead, it explores the role that evaluation plays in policy implementation. It argues that participatory evaluation can help reduce conflict and ambiguity amongst the stakeholders involved in delivering symbolic implementation of policies. So far, however, current evaluation efforts in most ENTITLE countries have played a limited role in supporting coordination and, for some countries, may in fact remove resources away from more effective development efforts, including pedagogical training.
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