|Public Library Benefits Valuation Study
Accomplishment of Research Plan
|The first activity under the plan was
construction of matrices of patrons and services for each participating library based on
the librarys mission. Consolidation of responses into a common framework applicable
to all five libraries. (Research objectives 1 and 2)
At an opening conference, the researchers met with representatives of the administrative staffs of the five participating urban libraries. With the researchers as facilitators, the administrators classified their patrons into major user groups and classified their services into major categories.
Administrators brainstormed the nature of benefits accruing directly to specific categories of patrons from each type of service. They also identified collective or service non-specific benefits accruing to library patrons.
Researchers consolidated the matrices from the five libraries into a common framework. Staff from each of the libraries reviewed and critiqued the common framework to ensure its applicability to each of the individual libraries.
Design of survey instruments and selection of samples of library patrons to estimate benefits for each of the five libraries by using consumer surplus, contingent valuation, and cost of time. (Research objectives 3 and 4)
Prior to the beginning of the IMLS-funded study, the researchers conducted pilot studies of St. Louis Public Library for the following groups of patrons: general cardholders (households), business cardholders, and schools. The instruments and estimation methods developed in the pilot studies provided models for those needed in the proposed study. Prior to surveying the other four libraries, the researchers conducted additional St. Louis surveys of benefits to businesses, not-for-profit, and government agencies to refine the instruments used for businesses in the initial St. Louis pilot study.
The matrix developed in step 1defined the actual user populations surveyed and the services investigated through the surveys. The researchers conducted separate surveys of patrons for each of the participating library sites. Probabilistic sampling permitted extrapolation of survey results to the population of users for each library.
It is important to note that the research plan included replication of benefit estimates for St. Louis Public Library. Comparison of estimates from the earlier St. Louis pilot study with estimates derived for St. Louis in the IMLS-funded study permit evaluation of the consistency of the methodology. This replication answered the following question: Will the methodology provide approximately the same estimates of benefits in repeated sampling? This replication was an important consideration in establishing the credibility of the results.
The research plan also called for the development of executive summaries and visual aids for each library that conveyed clearly but simply the conclusions of the study. In addition, researchers prepared examples of materials that administrators might use with media and in public presentations.
The primary audiences for the executive summaries were the administrative staffs and executive boards of the respective participating libraries. The primary audiences for the visual aids and media material are the press and constituent audiences that administrators may wish to address to promote the librarys mission or to build support for tax or bond referenda.
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