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Libraries and economic value: a review of recent studies

Roxanne Missingham (National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 1 December 2005




This paper aims to outline the development of research into the value of libraries over the past decade.


Recent studies using contingent valuation for the British Library, South Carolina Public Libraries, Florida Public Libraries and St Louis Public Libraries are summarised both in terms of methodology and findings. Studies into two national bibliographic services (Canada and New Zealand) are reviewed to demonstrate the application of value studies to specific services.


There are many questions that have yet to be answered through using this methodology. At the most basic level it is not yet clear whether any particular numerical result represents the best return on investment for an individual library. The lack of comparative of studies means that the appropriate level of return on investment than that which the taxpayer or investor should expect, has yet to be established.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need for further research to identify the relative position in which libraries in the major sectors should expect to be found. More significantly, there is a need to consider how a value identified for current use of a service should be balanced against future use, and to establish how these two analyses might be combined.


Shows consistent use of contingent valuation and return on investment for libraries in public and national library sectors. Each study took considerable resources and man‐hours to establish a community/user based economic result.



Missingham, R. (2005), "Libraries and economic value: a review of recent studies", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 142-158.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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