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Library value (return on investment, ROI) and the challenge of placing a value on public services

Paula Kaufman (University of Illinois, Urbana‐Champaign Library, Urbana, IL, USA, in interview with)
Sarah Barbara Watstein (Co‐Editor, RSR, and Charles E. Young Research Library, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 15 August 2008




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.


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.


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.


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.



Kaufman, P. and Barbara Watstein, S. (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.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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