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About the LibValue Project

In an age of continually growing digitization, globalization, and abundant information, the value of academic libraries is greater than ever before. College and university libraries remain central to research and education as they ensure information access, foster innovation, encourage collaborative research, and promote information literacy skills vital to the success of tomorrow’s leaders. At the same time, libraries are increasingly necessary resources for gaining the knowledge and tools to face tremendous contemporary challenges like promoting environmental sustainability, bridging the digital divide, and fostering cultural sensitivity in order to celebrate diversity.

Faced with difficult economic times and university budget cuts, the value of the library to the wider goals of the university is increasingly questioned. Return on investment (ROI) measures are a concrete means of demonstrating to institution administrators and public audiences the vital role academic libraries hold within both their respective communities and on a global scale. While libraries have traditionally been rather modest about broadcasting their own worth, today they must learn to make clear the often unrecognized ways in which they contribute to institutional success. This demonstration of value is exactly what LibValue, an IMLS-funded grant project, aims to empower.


Phase I:

Phase I sought to develop a quantitative measure of the library’s return on investment (ROI) by tying faculty’s use of library materials to the generation of grant income. The objective was to demonstrate in concrete terms the economic value of the library to the institution as a whole. The study addressed increasing demand by stakeholders for a cost / benefit analysis of academic libraries which recognized the library's role in achieving the university's strategic goals.

Originally conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in partnership with Elsevier, Phase I took a unique and timely approach. Researchers developed a formula using data on the library’s budget, faculty grant income, and faculty surveys. By implementing this model for the year 2006, UIUC determined a return of $4.38 in grant income for every dollar invested in the library.

Phase II:

University Investment in the Library: An International Study of the Library’s Value to the Grants Process

The second phase of this project also examined the ROI of the academic library specifically in terms of the grants funding process. The study investigated the amount of competitive grant funding universities receive when faculty submit grant proposals that include citations acquired from library electronic collections. Phase II research looked at eight institutions in eight countries worldwide. The researchers adapted the methodology used in the Phase I case study to calculate ROI from grants. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected, including figures on grant proposals, grant income, and the library budget. In addition, surveys of faculty on the value of library e-resources and interviews with university administrators on their institutional goals were also conducted.

The study’s key finding was that for every monetary unit invested in the library, the respective institutions receive an ROI of between 15.54:1 and 0.64:1 in research grant income alone. In six of the eight countries, ROI for grants is higher than 1:1. ROI for grants varies by institution because of differing institutional goals and circumstances (i.e. emphasis on science/technology/medicine vs. social sciences and humanities or availability of external funding sources). Faculty surveys and interviews with administrators further demonstrated the library’s strong role in helping to meet institutional goals, including attracting and retaining productive faculty, fostering innovative research, facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration, and raising the university’s prestige. Phase II does not take into account the many other ways in which the library generates value for its parent institution.

Phase III: LibValue

Values, Outcomes, and Return on Investment of Academic Libraries ("LibValue") is a three year study funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) (grant # LG-06-09-0152-09). The study, to be completed between December 1, 2009 and November 30, 2012, is Phase III of the earlier ROI projects. Phase III seeks to define and measure some of the numerous other ways in which the library creates value. This phase of the research focuses on three main areas: teaching / learning, research, and the social, professional, and public engagement functions of the library. Expected outcomes of the project are: 1) models for calculating value and ROI in academic libraries, 2) web-based tools for assessing ROI and value which can be used by academic librarians, and 3) an ROI and value calculation in three test libraries.

The LibValue team, a group of accomplished researchers and librarians at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Syracuse University, and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), is developing research and assessment tools to enable such valuation methods.

Carol Tenopir (UT) and Paula Kaufman (UIUC) serve as LibValue’s co-principal investigators. Other essential team members are Martha Kyrillidou (ARL), Bruce Kingma (Syracuse University/consultant), Donald W. King (UT and Bryant University), Tina E. Chrzastowski (UIUC), Gayle Baker (UT), Rachel Fleming-May (UT) and Ken Wise (UT). An Advisory Board of prominent researchers and professionals provides vital support to the project.