This article aims to describe two methods – critical incident and return on investment – that can be used to measure and demonstrate explicit and derived value of academic libraries. Results from several studies that use these methods are described in the context of the Lib‐Value project, funded by the US Institute of Museum and Library Services.
A series of surveys using the critical incident of the last article reading by faculty are used to gather information on the purpose, outcomes, and the value of scholarly article readings and access to collections through the library. Both qualitative and quantitative data are collected through web‐based surveys.
Over half of scholarly article readings by faculty are for research purposes and readings for research purposes were more likely to be obtained from the library's electronic collections and are valued more highly than readings for other purposes or from other sources. In a study of ROI to grants from the library's journal collections, results show that for every dollar invested in the library faculty attribute many more dollars returned in grant income through more successful grant proposals.
Return on investment is one method for measuring the value of a library's collections and services; others include measuring outcomes through critical incident and qualitative “stories”. Ongoing studies will examine how the library's products and services help faculty be successful, help students be successful, and generate both immediate and downstream income that provides good return on investment.
This paper highlights methods to measure the value of academic libraries as well as reporting findings from several studies that reflect changes in scholarly article readings over time. This type of research helps libraries demonstrate their value and gather evidence to choose from among alternatives.
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