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BULLET Placing a Value on Public Library Services
by
Glen E. Holt, Donald Elliott, and Amonia Moore
GOALS FOR THE STUDY

The goal of this research has been to develop and test a practical, conservative, transportable methodology that large urban public libraries can use to estimate and communicate the direct return on annual taxpayer investment in their organizations. To meet this goal, the economic methodology must be conceptually and empirically sound, as well as cost-effective to administer, pragmatic in its objectives, and simple to interpret and communicate.

By the spring of 1998, the research team had met this goal for the St. Louis Public Library. With no hesitation, it is now possible for SLPL spokespersons to tell board members, city officials, civic leaders - and even economists - that the library's users are receiving back more than $4 in direct benefits for every $1 of tax revenues that the public is contributing annually to the institution. Moreover, this result is based on conceptually and empirically sound methodology, and it meets the other goal criteria as well.

One significant element of this goal still has to be reached, however. The methodology that produced this $4-to$1 benefits-to-tax ratio worked for the SLPL system. To be transportable, the methodology has to be tested in other library districts with different demographics and operating environments. The method for making the methodology transportable is outlined in the last section of this paper.

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