Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Calculating the Benefits from Public Library Services

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Calculating the Benefits from Public Library Services

Article excerpt

Dr Glen Holt, Executive Director of the St Louis Public Library, St Louis, Missouri, visited the State Library of NSW in September 1998. Dr Holt reported on the findings of a cost benefit analysis carried out over a three year period in the St Louis Public Library.

The aim of his research was to find out how valuable the library service is to constituents by measuring the direct return on annual taxpayer investment. The study found that users get at least $4.00 worth of benefits for every $1.00 spent.

The research was conducted using cost benefit analysis methods, and measured two kinds of values:

1. Direct benefits, ie the benefit or value to the user

2. Indirect benefits, ie benefits to society as a whole.

It is hard to get a handle on societal benefits. For example, a value has been costed for the benefit of a child being able to read, and another value for a child with literacy skills -- but how much, or what percentage, can the library claim of this value? Dr Holt did not include these indirect benefits in his analysis of the study.

A survey was used to ascertain:

a) Consumer Surplus (the value that consumers place on the consumption of a good or service in excess of what they must pay for it). Users were asked about how many library services they used, how many books borrowed, how many books they buy, and what alternatives they would employ if there was no library service. Special effort was placed on valuing reference/research/reader's advisory services. …

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