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Todaro ALA Initiative WORKSPACE "Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library": Value Content for Libraries

This is a work space for draft documents only. Please see your workspace tab for more information.

Why Value?

And if you weren't influenced by the general "need for value" are the questions library administrators need to answer today:

  • Can’t we have (or just have) a digital library?
  • Do we have to have print materials?
  • Isn’t everything online? or online and free?
  • What is the value of the library actually?
  • What is the value of the library to the organization in general?
  • What is the library worth to the institution?
  • How can you demonstrate the value of the library?
  • If your library (example: closed, offered fewer hours, etc.) what impact would it have on constituents?
  • Why do we need a librarian (pick one: at all, on the weekend, rather than student workers, part time rather than full time, etc.?)
  • Do librarians need to be faculty and – if so - why should librarians be faculty?
  • If you closed (or closed on the weekend, or closed early, or closed in the summer, etc.) what difference would it make?
  • How do libraries support student learning outcomes?
  • Why do we need a (example: public library, academic library, school library, special library, etc.) when we already have the x library in (example: the area, in town, the online parent institution, etc.)?
  • How valid is your data?
  • If I fund your request, I can't fund (example: the new firetruck, the IT upgrade, the middle school athletic trips this spring, etc.) Why should I fund you instead?
  • What do other organizations do? I heard about one that (examples: outsourced their library, staffed their library with part time people and vollunteers)…..why can’t we?

Value of Libraries - General Information

Obviously when discussing "value," the profit world and the non-profit world differ. In determining how value is both defined and articulated to constituents, it is helpful to study overviews of both general value information (Not for Profit Valuation Overview,) as well as how value is articulated in public organizations such as value in higher education ("Spotlight" in ETS The Value of Higher Education; The True Value of Higher Education; What Does Value Look Like in Higher Education?; What Value Really Means in Higher Education); the value of cities and community or communities (What are Cities Worth?; Value of Communities)and the value of K-12 or K-20 education (A New Perspective: The Value of K-20 Education.) Obviously identifying what general value is and generally held beliefs of  perceptions of value in our umbrella organizations, assists in determining the roles library play in a variety of settings

Libraries articulate their value in a wide variety of ways and historically their value has been determined in broad, subjective terms using anecdotal data and "storytelling." Answers to the questions about "why libraries?" USED to be answered by:

  • Because we are the heart of the institution…
  • Because we are the fabric of the community…
  • Because “for the people” is the cornerstone of our democracy…
  • Because you’ve already paid for it…
  • Because pooling resources to support everyone is good business…
  • Because we are the great equalizer...
  • Because everyone just knows how important we are to our (example: community, college, school district, county, city, etc.)
  • Because our door count is high...

Other historical articulation of value includes use of aggregated flat or one-dimensional data to describe both input and outputs regarding facilties, services and resources such as data on sizes, depth and breadth of print and online resources. Value of libraries has also been articulated in two or multi-dimension data that illustrate value such as the use of collections in relationship to the number and type of users; the number and type of materials in relation to the disciplines and subject areas needed by constituents or the attendance at programs or use of services by the number of potential or actual users. (How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities)

While these types of data gathering and value illustration are still valid (Value: Declaration for the Right to Libraries, Library Snapshot Day) organizations and environments now have greater accountability and performance standards. Today's entities must now mirror umbrella organization's assessments and illustrations of value. That is, if educational settings measure student learning outcomes, then libraries must illustrate their value in the student success process of students achieving student learning outcomes. If communities value ecomonic development and how county departments support economic development, then libraries must illustate the role they play in economic development. (Return on Investment)

Other general library content includes:

  • Aabo, Svanhild. “Libraries and Return on Investment (ROI): A Meta‐Analysis.” New Library World 110, no. 7/8 (2009): 311‐324.

  • Aaron, Bruce C. “Determining the Business Impact of Knowledge Management.” Performance Improvement 48, no. 4 (2009):35‐45.

  • Abram. "Value of Libraries Megapost." Stephen's Lighthouse. 2005 - (dozens, but missing some LRS, U.S. federal, Webjunction AND has other mega-posts by type of library)
  • Allen, Nancy. Articles and Studies Related to Library Value. 2010.
  • Ewell, Peter T. “Power in Numbers: The Values in Our Metrics.” Change, 2005: 10‐16.
  • Griffiths, Jose Marie, and Donald W. King. A Manual of the Evaluation of Information Centers and Services. Oak Ridge, W. Choo, 419‐437. New York: Neal‐Schuman, 1996.
  • Hider, Philip.“Using the Contingent Valuation Method for Dollar Valuations of Library Services.” Library Quarterly 78, no. 4 (2008): 437‐458.
  • Hines, Samantha Schmehl. Revolutionizing the Development of Library and Information Professionals: Planning for the Future. University of Montana - Missoula College, USA. 2014. 313 pages.
  • Lustig, Joanne. “Briefing: What Executives Think About Information Management.” Information Management Service 11 (2008).
  • MacEachern, Ruth. “Measuring the Added Value of Library and Information Services: The New Zealand Approach.” IFLA Journal 27 (2001): 232‐236.
  • Markless, Sharon, and David Streatfield. Evaluating the Impact of Your Library. London: Facet, 2006.
  • Durrance, Joan. “Toward Developing Measures of the Impact of Library and Information Services.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 42, no. 1 (2002): 43‐53.
  • Kaufman, Paula, and Sarah Barbara Watstein. “Library Value (Return on Investment, ROI) and the Challenge of Placing a Value on Public Services.” Reference Services Review 36, no. 3 (2008): 226‐231.
  • Näslund, Dag, Annika Olsson, and Sture Karlsson. “Operationalizing the Concept of Value—An Action Research‐Based Model.” The Learning Organization 13, no. 3 (2006): 300‐332.
  • Nicholson, Scott. “A Conceptual Framework for the Holistic Measurement and Cumulative Evaluation of Library Services.” Journal of Documentation 60, no. 2 (2004): 164‐182.
  • Poll, R. (2012). Can we quantify the library’s influence? Creating an ISO standard for impact assessment. Performance Measurement and Metrics, 13 (2), 121–130.


The American Library Association has a variety of resources on value that include general value and value by type of library, type of service and type of resources.  Although two of these resources are listed above, this content is basic and provides anecdotal and subjective data such as Libraries: An American Value, The Value of Libraries as well as specific to type of library (Academic Libraries, Public Libraries, School Libraries and Special Libraries.)

In addition to content being accessible on the ALA website, the ALA-driven "I Love Libraries" includes author testimonials on library value (John Grisham on the Value of Libraries and Librarians), excellent comparison data historical in nature as well as classic articles such as Are School Libraries Expendable? and dozens more.  

ALA's Allied Professionals Association focuses on library employees and salary standards and equity. Library Worklife, the ALA/APA newletter includes a variety of artilces identifying librarian roles and responsibiliites.

ACRL. Value of Academic Libraries. Blog. 2014 - (no membership required)

ALA. Advocacy University. Value of Libraries. n.d. (mix of value data)

Assessment Committee. Value of Academic Libraries Toolkit. 2010.

National Library Medicine. The Value of Library and Information Services in Patient Care Study. 2013+

Oakleaf, Megan. The Value of Academic Libraries. ACRL.2010.

SLA. "Research." 1990 -

Other content on value:

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