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Measuring and assessing the impact of using volunteers in UK libraries: issues and methods

Judith Broady-Preston (Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine a range of issues and methods in relation to measuring the impact of volunteer labour on the design and delivery of all types of library services. With the increasing use of volunteers to deliver library and information services in all sectors, managers need to assess their effectiveness and evaluate the impact of their use in relation to operational service design and delivery, and on the development of the profession and professional practice as a whole. Presented here is an initial scoping study, outlining a range of issues, methods and challenges for more detailed future investigation.


A number of methodological challenges and perspectives are identifiable. Contemporary libraries exhibit increasing similarities with Third Sector organisations, namely a complex stakeholder community, and increasing use of volunteers to supplement or replace services delivered by professional staff. Therefore, a starting point for the research is a systematic review and analysis of the methodologies developed by the Third Sector Research Centre, and those studies in the ESRC contemporary Developing Impact Evaluation strand. As a rich picture is required, both quantitative and qualitative approaches are necessary, with the overall study adopting a mixed methods approach.


This paper reports the findings of the preliminary documentary analysis, literature review and scoping aspects of a large-scale study.


Research undertaken to date (June 2014) has failed to identify any published systematic review and examination of these issues.



A revised version of a paper earlier presented at the 10th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, York, 2013.


Broady-Preston, J. (2014), "Measuring and assessing the impact of using volunteers in UK libraries: issues and methods", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 112-121.



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