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Excellent library!

A Holistic Quality Model and Certificate

Achieving a better financial performance, making processes more efficient and enhancing customer satisfaction. More and more libraries are facing these challenges by establishing holistic quality management concepts.

More than fifteen public and academic libraries in Germany are operating successfully with the quality model "Excellent library!"; ten of them are awarded as "Excellent library!". They are part of a research project of the Research Center for Quality Management and Organizational Development (IQO) at Stuttgart Media University Germany, where the quality model and certificate "Excellent library!" has been developed since 2008.

For more information please find below an peer-reviewed article about the quality projekt and model:

Excellent library! - The Quality Model

The Quality Model and Certificate “Excellent Library!” is a holistic quality management model for public and academic libraries. It provides a framework for successful, qualitative and innovative library management.

The core principles of the quality model are:

  • Using self assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses and areas to be improved
  • Initiating a sustainable process of continuous improvement
  • Benchmarking
  • Management by fact and evidence
  • Visible leadership
  • Stakeholder orientation
  • Employee involvement

The Quality Model "Excellent Library!" is based on two international quality models: The Business Excellence Model of the "European Foundation for Quality Management" (EFQM) and its adaptation to the public sector: the "Common Assessment Framework" (CAF) . These models are classical industrial tools and holistic TQM models. Therefore, libraries are evaluated at the basis of international standards which go beyond the library sector.

The model recognizes that there are many approaches to achieve sustainable excellence in all areas of performance:

The underlying thesis of the model is that excellent results of a library with respect to performance, customers, people and society are achieved through leadership driving policy and strategy that is delivered through people, partnerships, resources and processes.

The Framework

The quality model provides a non-prescriptive framework based on 9 management areas, which are defined by criteria and indicators: The "Enablers" criteria cover the implemented actions of an organization. The "Results" criteria show the results achieved by the organization. The model covers a circulating system: Continuing "Results" are caused by "Enablers" and "Enablers" are improved by using feedback from "Results".

  • The model's 9 boxes represent the management areas against which an organization assesses its progress towards Excellence. Each of the nine management areas has a definition, which explains the high level meaning of this area.
  • Each management area is supported by a number of criteria. These pose a number of questions that should be considered in the course of an assessment.
  • Finally, below each criterion are "indicators" (altogether 142 indicators). They are intended to further exemplify the meaning of the criteria.

Participation on the way to Excellence - Project design

Public as well as academic libraries could participate in the project becoming an Excellent library!. Depending on their level of excellence and their existing management organization and tools, the program takes 2-4 years. Project design is scheduled by an alternating mix of self-assessment phases and phases to establish required key management tools.

The quality model is based on self-assessment as core method which provides

  • a highly structured, fact- and evidence based technique to identify and assess the library's strengths and areas for improvement, and to measure its progress
  • a holistic and profound assessment on 142 indicators covering all of the nine management areas
  • a tool that is managed and autonomously conducted by library management and library staff
  • a means to create enthusiasm among employees by involving them in the improvement process
  • a means to integrate various quality initiatives into every day business operations
  • a means of measuring progress over time through periodic self-assessment

The output provides a unique insight into the library. These findings culminate in planned schemes for improvement and establishing management tools which then are monitored for progress.

Support by the Research Center (IQO)

The IQO accompanies the libraries during the implementation process by supporting training and workshops for strategic development, process management and information management. It also provides tools and documents for conducting the on-site self-assessment process. Regular meetings at the IQO offer the possibility for best practice-sharing and exchange of experiences between the libraries as well as for scheduling the next steps.

External certification process

In addition to the self-assessment process, libraries can apply for an external assessment and the certification process. To identify award winners a team of assessors of the reseach institute at Stuttgart Media University spends one day on site, reviewing documents, interviewing and analyzing the library against the criteria. The assessors provide an expertise containing an evaluation of strengthens and fields of improvement from an external view.

Passing the external assessment successfully, outstanding libraries can be awarded as "Excellent Library!". Certification is valid for 3 years. The certificate is aimed on strengthen the visibility by using it as a marketing tool.

Fotos u.a.: HdM Stuttgart/Mitra Schmidt

Excellent Libraries in Germany

There are a number of public libraries and academic libraries who implemented or are on the way to establishing the Quality Model "Excellent library!" in their organization. A couple of them are awarded as "Excellent library!".

Public libraries:

Academic libraries:

They all state positive and sustainable effects:

The Research Center for Quality Management and Organizational Development (IQO)

The quality model and certificate "Excellent library!" has been developed since 2008 by the Research Center for Quality Management and Organizational Development (IQO) at Stuttgart Media University.

The IQO is exploring the applicability of economic management tools for libraries with focus on quality management as a leadership approach. Furthermore, the IQO offers trainings and workshops, tools and documents for the implementation of key management tools like strategic development, process management and information management in libraries.

If you are interested in further information, please feel free to contact us!


Prof. Cornelia Vonhof
Project lead
Stuttgart Media University

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