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Libraries and return on investment (ROI): a meta‐analysis

Svanhild Aabø (Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 17 July 2009




The purpose of this paper is to show that the need to communicate the value of libraries is growing, and especially now during the global financial crisis. As a response library valuation research is expanding and there is now a need for a status report.


The library valuation field is developing towards generating a critical mass of empirical studies. The focus of the meta‐analytical review is on the subgroup that reports a return on investment (ROI) or a cost‐benefit ratio. Meta‐analysis is a quantitative analysis of findings of previous studies, conducted to infer general findings and lessons from prior empirical research. The dataset is 38 library valuation studies reporting a return on investment figure or cost‐benefit ratio.


Of the 38 studies, 32 are of public libraries, a number high enough to indicate a tenable result. The meta‐analysis indicates that the patterns in the findings are consistent with expectations regarding the benefit types that are included in the ROI figure, the methods used, and the scope of the study.


This study appears to be the first meta‐analytical review of library studies reporting a return on investment figure. The tentative conclusion is that for each dollar invested in public libraries they return, on average, approximately four times more. This is a strong message with policy implications.



Aabø, S. (2009), "Libraries and return on investment (ROI): a meta‐analysis", New Library World, Vol. 110 No. 7/8, pp. 311-324.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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