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BULLET Placing a Value on Public Library Services
by
Glen E. Holt, Donald Elliott, and Amonia Moore
COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS: THE TOOL TO MEASURE LIBRARY BENEFITS

Difficulties in the Measurement of Indirect Benefits


The greatest problem with indirect benefits is the difficulty in measuring them. Indirect benefits are hard to identify and even more difficult to estimate. For example, scholars have calculated the benefits to society when a youngster knows how to read vs. her/his being illiterate. What portion of that indirect-benefit estimate can be claimed for the library because the child used public library services and materials?

Or, suppose that the youngster who learns to read is the daughter of an inner-city welfare recipient, but when she becomes a mother, she teaches all her children to read even before they go to school. In the process, both the mother and her children make heavy use of library materials to climb out of poverty. What contribution can the library claim for helping this generation move up economically? Lynn A. Karoly and others have attempted this examination for early-childhood intervention programs but not for library-based programs.4

Examples of other indirect and collective benefits include community-building enhancements because a library role functions as a neighborhood center or the possible effects of library youth programs on reducing area crime. XX, Rand, provides one such study.5

The indirect benefits of all these situations can be estimated. But the SLPL Services-Valuation Project team is not yet ready to attempt to answer these questions. Here's why.

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