Benchmarking multicultural services

Last updated:  08 April 2024

The types of results and the discrete areas relevant to public libraries in NSW have determined that several areas are relevant to benchmarking. These are: 

  1. Planning for library services relevant to NESB clients
  2. Organisational capacity to develop and deliver multicultural services / collections
  3. Quality of multicultural services / collections
  4. Promotions and delivery
  5. Evaluation 


These benchmarks were originally created in 2003 and updated in 2016. This revised edition draws on the findings and recommendations of the Multicultural Library Services in New South Wales Public Libraries state-wide research project in 2017.  

Benchmark categories

This five-point scale was chosen to provide a high level of sensitivity so that progress in developing services could be measured. The benchmarks were not designed to provide numerically significant data given the qualitative nature of the research and evaluation. They have been numbered so that present knowledge skills and resources can be evaluated and progress can be demonstrated. The benchmark categories move from Exemplary Level 5 which is the best possible practice for public libraries in relation to multicultural services and collections to Entry Level 1 which is representative of a low level of practice. 

Benchmark categories
  • Exemplary - Level 5
    Libraries have fully integrated the needs of the NESB population into their ongoing planning and operation. Activities specific to NESB users are clearly identified, measurable and form part of the mainstream activity of the library service. 
  • Enhanced - Level 4 
    Libraries have a well-developed planning program and related promotional activities for NESB audience. These activities do not form a part of overall library activities, but are still evaluated by management.
  • Average - Level 3
    Libraries undertake a range of collections/services planning, promotion and access activities. Limited evaluation of these services exist and therefore there is limited capacity to input into ongoing planning. 
  • Improving - Level 2
    Libraries allocate limited resources to the area of multicultural service provision. 
  • Entry level - Level 1
    Libraries undertake a  level of activities relevant to the needs of NESB clients. These tend to be unplanned and ad hoc.

Benchmark 1: Planning for relevant library services 

  • Mechanisms exist which allow participation of diverse community representatives to identify their library service needs, wants and preferences.
  • Comprehensive community data is used to inform library service planning. Data covering key demographic considerations such as English language proficiency (ELP), recency of arrival, immigration category and age.  
  • Comprehensive library planning mechanisms exist which are inclusive of diversity issues and which allocate staffing, resourcing and planning. 
  • Library has strong ongoing partnerships with NESB community organisations.
  • Community engagement activities to inform library planning include NESB community input.  
  • NESB demographic data is utilised as a planning tool, though the ethnicity data is not integrated with other data.  
  • Multicultural services planning occurs but is not integrated with development of whole of library plans and allocation of resources.  
  • Library has partnerships with NESB community organisations. 
  • Limited NESB community consultation mechanisms exist.
  • Planning mechanisms exist to identify NESB issues but are not clearly linked to resource allocation.
  • Limited NESB demographic data is utilised as a planning tool (eg. Language spoken at home only).
  • Limited partnerships with NESB community organisations.
  • NESB community engagement is limited to complaints and service feedback.
  • Demographic data is not utilised in planning.
  • Formal planning mechanisms exist but only includes NESB issues as part of Council’s community development goals.
Entry level
  • No allowance for NESB community involvement.
  • There is limited use of community population data.
  • Planning mechanisms for multicultural services are informal and ad hoc.
  • No strategy for the library to contribute to community harmony and social inclusion. 

Benchmark 2: Organisation capacity

  • Multicultural policy exists and is integrated into the overall library policy structure.  
  • Staff have the skills and capacity to develop and implement services for a NESB client base, which is developed through training, performance appraisal and organisational support.  
  • The library demonstrates a strong relationship with local NESB communities, government and other organisations.  
  • Resource allocation for multilingual library collections and services exists to meet NESB client needs.  
  • Digital inclusion for NESB community members is a priority.  
  • Bi-lingual and/or community language programming is offered (e.g. early literacy sessions, community language café and conversational English classes). 
  • LOTE collection development policy exists but is not integrated into overall library policy structure.  
  • Staff cross cultural awareness training is compulsory.   
  • Use of LOTE resources is monitored and funding is protected.  
  • Library builds relationships with local NESB communities, government and other organisations.  
  • LOTE digital skills programming is available.  
  • Bi-lingual and/or community language programming is offered (eg. early literacy sessions, conversational English classes). 
  • Library collection development policy exists with a specific mention of multicultural collection and service which is not detailed.  
  • Cross cultural awareness training exists but is not compulsory for all staff.  
  • Identified resources (staffing and budget) are allocated but are not monitored.  
  • The library demonstrates a limited relationship with local NESB communities, government and other organisations.  
  • Limited LOTE digital skills programming is available. 
  • No formal identification of multicultural collection development policy.  
  • No formal cross-cultural training for staff.  
  • No identified multicultural resource allocation in response to community need (collections, programs, digital literacy and technology).  
  • The library demonstrates an ad hoc relationship with local NESB communities, government and other organisations. 
Entry level
  • No multicultural collection development policy exists.  
  • No cross-cultural training for staff.  
  • No identified resource allocation for NESB needs (collections, programs, digital literacy and technology).  
  • The library does not have a relationship with local NESB communities and government organisations.

Benchmark 3: Quality of service and collections

  • Comprehensive range of up-to-date materials that reflected community profiles and culture.  
  • Services reflect community profiles and responds to needs identified in community consultations.  
  • Collections easily accessed by NESB library users.   Library Management System (LMS) displays non-roman script. 
  • Self-check units display instructions in common community languages.  
  • Acquiring NESB community contributions to local studies collections including oral histories (in English and in LOTE) with transcriptions and translations.
  • Minimum collection requirements (stock numbers and age of material) are identified for a range of language groups.  
  • Services are reflective of identified community diversity.  
  • Some degree of LOTE language cataloguing exists and computer catalogue advice and training is provided for and promoted to NESB clients.  Library Management System (LMS) can display non-roman script.  
  • Actively seeking NESB community contributions to local studies collections. 
  • Quality of collection varies across language groups, or is limited to a dominant language group.  
  • Services reflect the needs of the dominant language group and no other NESB groups.  
  • Computer catalogue advice and training provided for NESB clients, but not promoted to them.  
  • Exploring options for NESB community local studies collections.
  • Collection contains multilingual material though does not match current community profile.  
  • Most NESB library users are offered library services in English only.  
  • LOTE resources are not promoted.  No NESB community local studies collections. 
Entry level
  • Limited range of materials and out-of-date materials.  
  • No specific multilingual services offered.  
  • No multilingual cataloguing exists.  
  • No NESB community local studies collections. 

Benchmark 4: Promotions and delivery

  • Have a fully developed multicultural communication strategy which is:
    • Informed by language targeting and library service relevance. 
    • Integrated into the overall library or council communications program with a level of resources reflective of multicultural services. 
    • Matching relevance, message, and recipient using the most appropriate medium. 
    • Serviced by appropriate language resources to meet client LOTE needs    
  • LOTE collections are promoted.  
  • Library selects appropriate social media to promote library collections and services in LOTE. 
  • Communication decisions and language targeting are based on client group analysis and relevance to multicultural service(s).  
  • Non-English communication strategies are developed as part of mainstream communications.   
  • Library undertakes translation of information documents and signage in priority languages.  
  • Some consideration has been given to the needs of diverse groups such as location, service points, etc.  
  • LOTE collections are promoted.  
  • Library uses social media to promote library collections and services in LOTE. 
  • A range of LOTE information media is used and based on client research.  
  • Publicity materials are screened and tested for cultural appropriateness prior to placement in ethnic media.  
  • Undertakes translation of information documents in languages based on collected client data.  
  • Exploring options for using social media to promote library services. 
  • No planned multilingual promotions exist.  
  • Translated information documents are not supported by demographic data.  
  • No multilingual signage.  
  • Flexible approaches to service delivery exist but are not used to meet NESB client needs. 
Entry level
  • There is no promotion of multicultural services.  
  • There is no advertising in ethnic media.  
  • Produces all formal documents in English only.  
  • No multilingual signage.  
  • Library policies and procedures have little provision for flexibility.

Benchmark 5: Evaluation

  • Formal audience research is carried out at least biennially to assess the relevant success of libraries in meeting client needs. 
  • Customer feedback mechanisms exist and responses are specifically requested from all library users.   
  • Comprehensive library user research is undertaken to include NESB participants. 
  • Customer feedback mechanisms exist which have a capacity to meet NESB needs and are made available to library users.  
  • Client research (eg. surveys and focus groups) is undertaken with provision for English and other main non-English language groups.
  • Customer feedback mechanisms available but promoted only in English.  
  • Some client research (eg. surveys and focus groups) is undertaken, but only in English. 
Entry level
  • Feedback mechanisms available only in English and based on complaints.  
  • No research is carried out to assess the relevant success of libraries in meeting NESB client needs. 

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