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BULLET Institute for Museum and Library ServicesDEVELOPMENT OF A PORTABLE COST BENEFIT METHODOLOGY FOR URBAN LIBRARIES

The St. Louis Public Library’s (SLPL) cost benefit project, funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), has implemented the initial steps of its proposal.

  1. PROJECT FUNDING REPORTED TO PARTICIPANTS

    Upon award of the grant in September 1998, SLPL researchers contacted directors and representatives of the four other libraries invited to participate in the CBA research project. These libraries are Baltimore County (MD) Library, Birmingham (AL) Public Library, Phoenix (AZ) Public Library and King County (WA) Public Library. The IMLS grant also funds a retest of the earlier St. Louis pilot study.

    This earlier St. Louis CBA study has been widely reported. A bibliography [link to bibliography] of articles about the initial St. Louis project is available.

  2. PLANNING MEETINGS

    As the working project contacts were being established, the co-principal investigators (Dr. Glen Holt and Prof. Donald Elliott, Chair, Economics Department, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Illinois) had several project planning meetings with Dr. Leslie Edmonds Holt and Ms. Anne Watts. It had been decided earlier that Ms. Watts would be the communication liaison with all the cooperating libraries.

  3. REFINEMENT OF METHODOLOGY

    The research team refined and expanded the “Matrix of Services”, a key conceptual framework for setting up the survey methodology, by generalizing the elements used in the earlier St. Louis CBA pilot study. The team also held discussions on draft questions to include in the telephone survey.

  4. SIGNING THE CONTRACT AND WORKING ON DRAFT QUESTIONS WITH THE SURVEY FIRM

    SLPL worked with a high-quality survey firm and telephone survey firm in its successful 1988 and 1994 tax elections. In the SLPL application, note was made of this relationship with a survey firm and the team’s desire to use this firm again because of the high-quality work they had done for the library in the past. In its 1995-97 CBA case study, the SLPL team had used a telephone survey group at SIUE, but the survey contemplated in the IMLS study was so large as to require the work of a firm that could handle a much larger volume of calls. Although SIUE researchers developed the survey instruments and sampling frames for use in the project, members of the research team worked with the staff of the survey firm to clarify and improve the survey instruments and procedures.

  5. MEETING WITH PARTICIPATING LIBRARIES

    At the January 1999 American Library Association (ALA) meeting in Philadelphia, the research team met with the project teams from each of the participating libraries. In a half-day morning meeting, Professor Elliott walked all the library teams through the project, explaining the obligations of each participating library in the completion of the study. Following the group meeting, the St. Louis project team met with the project team from each participating library to assess how the survey had to be adapted to meet local conditions and how to get optimal results from the survey.

  6. SELECTING POTENTIAL SURVEY PARTICIPANTS FROM LIBRARY DATABASES

    Based upon the response rate to the earlier St. Louis case study, the decision was made to pull a random sample of 4,500 potential respondents from each of the five library patron databases. The sample included only households or businesses that had used their library cards within the past 12 months. Each sample was sent to St. Louis, where the SLPL project team had made arrangements for zip-sort mailings with a large mailing firm which the library had used previously. Letters of invitation to participate in the interviews were sent to potential respondents on the letterhead of the participating libraries.

  7. SURVEY RESPONSE FORMS

    Each letter of invitation included a response form on which potential respondents could indicate a willingness to participate, categories of library services used, and a phone number and time to call. These survey responses were turned over to the survey firm.

  8. TELEPHONE SURVEY

    The survey firm banked the telephone numbers in an automatic telephone dialer and began making telephone calls. The firm is attempting to reach all potential respondents who have not formally declined the invitation to participate. The telephone survey is now in progress.

  9. TEAM MEETINGS IN NEW ORLEANS AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

    The SLPL research team will meeting again with the project teams from the participating libraries at the New Orleans ALA meeting. The research team will report on the survey process and response rates.



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