||DEVELOPMENT OF A PORTABLE COST BENEFIT METHODOLOGY FOR URBAN LIBRARIES
The St. Louis Public Librarys (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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 teams 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.