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Audiovisual materials in UK public libraries: economic sense?

Anne Morris (Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Catherine Ayre (Department of Information Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Amy Jones (Wellington Library, Telford and Wrekin Council, Wellington, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 September 2006



The purpose of this paper is to examine the provision of audiovisual materials in UK public libraries and their economic value.


A questionnaire survey of all the public library authorities in the UK was used to investigate current provision of audiovisual material, expected future provision, and the amounts spent on and generated by audiovisual collections. Data collected, together with those available from other reputable sources, were then used to estimate the cost benefit or value of audiovisual provision.


The provision of audiovisual material in UK public libraries is widespread and varied. While audiovisual collections provide economic value and generate income from charging for loans, there are significant costs inherent in providing such services. Concerns are raised about the constant developments in media formats and the ability to make adequate provision. A cost benefit of 1:1.34 using the PVB (present value benefits) based on maximum loan charges was found, meaning that the UK gets £1.34 direct benefit from every £1.00 spent on the audiovisual service.

Research limitations/implications

There are different methods used by economists to estimate value of public services, all having limitations. The method used in this research is no exception. The cost‐benefit ratio found is based on maximum loan charges. However, this figure would be higher if the PVB had been based on purchase costs or lower if the PVB had been based on mean loan charges. Further, the figures do not include indirect benefits or option benefits, so are likely to be underestimates of the true cost benefit of the audiovisual service.

Practical implications

This research is likely to be of interest to public library managers and funding bodies needing evidence for the value of audiovisual provision.


This is the first attempt to put a monetary value on audiovisual provision in the UK. It also provides insights into current and future audiovisual provision.



Morris, A., Ayre, C. and Jones, A. (2006), "Audiovisual materials in UK public libraries: economic sense?", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 62 No. 5, pp. 555-569.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited