Return on Investment and Value of Libraries – Bibliography Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Prepared by Margie Jantti and Karen Tang (CQAAC) for CAUL, August, 2011, updated 7 December.

Aabø, Svanhild 2005, ‘The role and value of public libraries in the age of digital technologies’, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 205-211.

Discusses public libraries’ role and value in the age of digital technologies. Reassessments of their role due to technological development and widespread public use of the Internet are analysed. Central challenges of the digital society, including an increased digital divide and a weakening of local community identity, have resulted in lower social participation and involvement in community issues. Previous research has demonstrated that public libraries have a wide social impact on both individuals and local communities. This article focuses on the special characteristics of public libraries to assess their potentially enhanced role and value, as a public room and social and physical meeting place in the digitised age. The article identifies a need to strengthen the public libraries’ democratic role in the information society by furthering social inclusiveness and citizenship.

Aabø, Svanhild 2009, ‘Libraries and return on investment (ROI): a meta-analysis’, New Library World, vol. 110, no. 7/8, pp. 311-324.

The purpose of this paper is to show that the need to communicate the value of libraries is growing, and especially now during the global financial crisis. As a response library valuation research is expanding and there is now a need for a status report. The library valuation field is developing towards generating a critical mass of empirical studies. The focus of the meta-analytical review is on the subgroup that reports a return on investment (ROI) or a cost-benefit ratio. Meta-analysis is a quantitative analysis of findings of previous studies, conducted to infer general findings and lessons from prior empirical research. The dataset is 38 library valuation studies reporting a return on investment figure or cost-benefit ratio. Of the 38 studies, 32 are of public libraries, a number high enough to indicate a tenable result. The meta-analysis indicates that the patterns in the findings are consistent with expectations regarding the benefit types that are included in the ROI figure, the methods used, and the scope of the study. This study appears to be the first meta-analytical review of library studies reporting a return on investment figure. The tentative conclusion is that for each dollar invested in public libraries they return, on average, approximately four times more. This is a strong message with policy implications.

Clark, N., Stone, R.D., Poletti, E., Schneider, J. & Jemison, K. 2009, ‘Measuring Return on Investment in VA Libraries’, Journal of Hospital Librarianship, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 379-390.


After evaluating available library-targeted return on investment (ROI) tools, VA Library Network Librarians created a workgroup to formulate a tool geared specifically to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital libraries. The workgroup devised an approach with three separate components: a Return on Investment Analysis tool that each library could employ; a Library Scorecard that provided local and national examples of typical benefits, for libraries that could not devote time to using the ROI instrument; and a Management Support Report for libraries that wanted a mission-based document to use with their local management. The tools were essentially complete in 18 months, after numerous drafts.

Jantti, M and Cox, B. 2010, ‘Measuring the value of library resources and student academic performance through relational datasets’: Proceedings of the Library Assessment Conference : Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment, 25-27 October, Baltimore, Maryland.


Elliott, V, 2010, ‘Why Then We Rack the Value' - Building Value Frameworks for Academic Libraries: Academic Librarian 2 : Singing in the Rain, ALSR 2010, Conference towards Future Possibilities, Hong Kong, 11-12 March 2010.

Presentation available:  

Fleming-May, Rachel & Sherline, Crystal 2010, ‘ROI and Value Bibliography’, reviewed in Library & Information Science Research 33 (2011) 256–257

View database:

Grzeschik, Kathrin 2010, ‘Return on investment (ROI) in German libraries: The Berlin School of Library and Information Science and the University Library at the Humboldt University, Berlin - a case study’, The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 141-201.

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to verify the proposition by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), that their return on investment (ROI) formula developed for academic libraries and based on hard facts is broad enough to be used throughout the world for ROI studies in academic institutions/libraries. It further aims to verify that UIUC's methodology is adaptable enough to work in other academic environments as well. Design/methodology/approach - The methodology developed by UIUC (an ROI formula developed for academic libraries based on grant proposal applications and citations) has been "copied" and thereby adapted to enable it to be used in an academic environment in Europe/Germany. Findings - The methodology developed by UIUC was adaptable enough to be used in a German academic environment for calculating the ROI of a University library. However, the methodology was sometimes complicated and therefore simplified for this and possible further studies. Likewise, the ROI formula was very complex and this study found that it was possible to simplify it as well for further use. Research limitations/implications - There was difficulty in gathering all the information necessary for conducting such a study in Germany as grant proposals contain sensitive data that people are unwilling to display. Further, it was noticeable that German statistics on funding were unable to provide the necessary data without further enquiries, despite the German law that public institutions are obliged to disclose funding information. Originality/value - Previously no one else has tried to verify the methodology for an ROI study developed by UIUC. This study gives evidence that UIUC was right in claiming that their ROI formula developed for academic institutions/libraries may be used for any academic library in the world. Further, this study shows how the formula and the methodology may be adapted to fit individual academic environments.

Hawkins, M., Morris, A. & Sumsion, J 2003, ‘Estimating the economic value of library benefits’, Performance Measurement and Metrics, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 13-27.

The theory underlying the economic value of library benefits is outlined, and research (mainly in Australia and New Zealand) is reviewed. A UK research project examined four methods of assessing benefits in economic terms with particular attention to a consensus "market value" model. In developing the "market value" model one key variable is the relationship of book reads to book prices. A prototype value added schedule gives estimates of value for different library services to compare estimated total benefits with total costs. For UK public libraries, calculations show that the economic value of library benefits exceeds costs incurred, with social and intangible benefits in addition. New performance indicators are suggested by the research. It is shown how the methodology can be extended from public libraries to a parliamentary library and also to the economic and social costs of crime.
Hendriks, B. & Wooler, I. 2006, ‘Establishing the return on investment for information and knowledge services: A practical approach to show added value for information and knowledge centres, corporate libraries and documentation centres’, Business Information Review, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 13-25.

Hye-Kyung Chung 2007, ‘Measuring the economic value of special libraries’, The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 30-44.

This study aims to present a new approach to measuring the economic value of special libraries, including certain time-saving effects that the contingent valuation method application cannot exclusively prove. A cost-benefit analysis is used as a tool to determine whether the benefits of special libraries outweigh the cost incurred in providing the services. The benefits of such libraries are based on estimates of how much the user is willing to pay for the service, as well as the cost of time saved as a result of his contact with library services. A case study was conducted to show how special libraries could apply the proposed model to their library setting to measure the value of the library's services. According to the case study involving the KDI School Library, the economic value of its library services measured in terms of a B/C ratio was 1.97, serving as strong justification for the library's existence. This study is more specific and accurate than previous studies in that it enables an individual analysis for each service special libraries offer and focuses on the types of benefit derived. It is hoped that the model will help analyze the strength of each library service as well as the total economic value of the library.

Luther, Judy 2008, ‘University investment in the library: What’s the return? A case study at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign’ White Paper #1.



Missingham, Roxanne 2005, ‘Libraries and economic value: a review of recent studies’, Performance Measurement and Metrics, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 142-158.

This paper aims to outline the development of research into the value of libraries over the past decade. Recent studies using contingent valuation for the British Library, South Carolina Public Libraries, Florida Public Libraries and St Louis Public Libraries are summarised both in terms of methodology and findings. Studies into two national bibliographic services (Canada and New Zealand) are reviewed to demonstrate the application of value studies to specific services. There are many questions that have yet to be answered through using this methodology. At the most basic level it is not yet clear whether any particular numerical result represents the best return on investment for an individual library. The lack of comparative of studies means that the appropriate level of return on investment than that which the taxpayer or investor should expect, has yet to be established. There is a need for further research to identify the relative position in which libraries in the major sectors should expect to be found. More significantly, there is a need to consider how a value identified for current use of a service should be balanced against future use, and to establish how these two analyses might be combined. Shows consistent use of contingent valuation and return on investment for libraries in public and national library sectors. Each study took considerable resources and man-hours to establish a community/user based economic result.

Neal, James G. 2011, ‘Stop the madness: the insanity of ROI and the need for new qualitative measures of academic library success’, Proceedings of the ACRL 2011 Conference, A declaration of Interdependence, Philadelphia, March 30 - April 2, 2011.

Paper available:

Paberza, Kristine 2010, ‘Towards an assessment of public library value: Statistics on the policy makers' agenda’, Performance Measurement and Metrics, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 83-92.

This paper aims to present a methodology, early findings, possible applications of results and lessons learned from the research study "Public libraries: value, trust and satisfaction", which has been conducted within the public library development project 'Father's Third Son' in Latvia. Design/methodology/approach - A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used (although the findings reported here are largely drawn from the quantitative study) drawing on various theories of information behaviour and use-oriented information service evaluation. Findings - The study gives a good picture of user information needs in Latvia, the sources they use to fulfil them and the role of public libraries within this picture, especially in relation to cultural and recreational interests and public support for public libraries in terms of potential funding. The public library influence on people's leisure hours and their support for education are highlighted. The advocacy implications of this work are reviewed. Research limitations/implications - Although this report is confined to the early stages of the study, the work was conducted on a substantial scale. Originality/value - The work reported here provides new evidence of library use and appreciation in Latvia. The later results of this study, combined with evidence gathered by other participants in the Global Libraries initiative, will provide a commanding view of the significance of public libraries across a range of countries.

Sidorko, P.E. 2010, ‘Demonstrating ROI in the library: the Holy Grail search continues’, Library Management, vol. 31, no. 8/9, pp. 645-653.

This article aims to examine approaches by academic libraries in demonstrating return on investment (RoI). As a participant in a recent international RoI study, the author reviews the various difficulties in developing a suitable methodology. Using grant income as the basis for demonstrating RoI, it was found that wide differences in results may be attributable to a number of factors related to the parent organisation, the availability of grant funding and the country of the study. Further work is necessary to arrive at a suitable methodology for a diverse range of academic libraries. Library managers are alerted to issues and problems surrounding the development of return on investment methodologies. This paper will prove useful to librarians considering investing time and other resources in developing methodologies for demonstrating return on investment.

Sumsion, J., Hawkins, M. & Morris, A. 2002, ‘The economic value of book borrowing from public libraries: An optimisation model’, Journal of Documentation, vol. 58, no. 6, pp. 662-682.

In the context of statistical research into the economic value of public library services, a model was developed to demonstrate the economic benefit when books are borrowed rather than bought. The model is based on the number of book reads rather than on book purchases or library issue counts. Different assumptions applied to the model cover the hardback.paperback distinction and different levels of library costs. The most significant variable, however, is shown to lie between books that are "read through" and those `frequently consulted" for information and educational benefit. Maximising book loans through the public library is shown to be not only in the interest of individual users, but also to be economically in the public interest.

Tenopir, C, Allard S, Bates B, Levine KJ, King DW, Birch B, Mays R, Caldwell C. 2011, ‘Perceived Value of Scholarly Articles’, Learned Publishing, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 123-132.

When faced with an abundance of articles, readers must weigh the relative importance of various characteristics to select which articles to read. Over 400 researchers in 12 countries responded to a questionnaire that asked them to rank seven article characteristics and rate 16 article profiles. After article topic, the next most highly ranked characteristics were online accessibility and source of article. Conjoint analysis revealed the highest rated profiles to be (i) article written by a top-tier author, in a top peer-reviewed journal, available online at no personal cost to the reader; and (ii) article written by a top-tier author, in a peer-reviewed journal not in the top tier, available online at no personal cost to the reader. There were significant differences in characteristic rankings by discipline and geographic location.

Tenopir, C, King DW, Mays R, Wu L, Baer A. 2010, ‘Measuring Value and Return on Investment of Academic Libraries’, Serials, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 182-190.

The value of an academic library to its parent institution is difficult, but important, to measure. Many different methods have been used to measure value, including return on investment (ROI), contingent valuation, and other explicit and implicit measures. In a recent study we looked at the value and ROI of the library ejournal collections in the grants process in eight universities in eight countries. The results show that library provided access to scholarly journals supports faculty productivity and that faculty members value and use electronic resources to support their research, grant and publishing activities.

Watstein, Sarah Barbara & Kaufman, Paula 2008, ‘Library value (return on investment, ROI) and the challenge of placing a value on public services’, Reference Services Review, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 226-231.

The purpose of this paper is to interview Paula Kaufman, Dean of Libraries, to help better understand return on investment (ROI) and the increasing importance of demonstrating our value, as libraries, as librarians, indeed, as public service librarians. Design/methodology/approach - During 2007, a small project team was assembled to develop a model that would calculate a return on investment to an institution for its library. The team consisted of Chrysanne Lowe and Kira Cooper from Elsevier, Paula Kaufman from UIUC, Judy Luther of Informed Strategies, and Dr Carol Tenopir from the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Findings - The results of this groundbreaking study were reported early this year in a white paper entitled, "University investment in the library: what's the return? A case study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign" by Judy Luther. The model the team developed showed a 4-to-1 return. Originality/value - This study seeks to determine the value of ROI and in library terms ROI refers to the return on an organization's investment in its library. ROI would therefore answer the question of how much quantifiable value the University received for every dollar it invested in its library.

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Author: Prepared by Margie Jantti and Karen Tang (CQAAC) for CAUL. 07/12/2011

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