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Library value and impact. Mary Dunne & Mairea Nelson. Value & Impact. Value is ‘the benefit the user obtains from the use of information and the effect of that use ’. ( Urquhart & Hepworth 1995, 33). Indicators: Usefulness

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library value and impact

Library value and impact

Mary Dunne & Mairea Nelson


Value & Impact

Value is ‘the benefit the user obtains from the use of information and the effect of that use’. (Urquhart & Hepworth 1995, 33).

  • Indicators:
  • Usefulness
  • Satisfaction - a personally perceived response to an experience.(Poll 2012)

Impact is the effect of a service on its users (and others). - may be viewed as an aspect of value.

Poll R (2012) Can we quantify the library’s influence? Creating an ISO standard for impact assessment, Performance Measurement and Metrics, 13(2), 121-130.

UrqhuartC & Hepworth J (1995) The value to clinical decision making of information supplied. London: British Library Research and Development Department.

iso definitions
ISO definitions

input: contribution of resources in support of a library (e.g. funding, staff, collections, space, equipment)

process: set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs into outputs (e.g. cataloguing, lending, reference service)

output: products of library processes (e.g. titles catalogued, loans, downloads from the electronic collection, reference questions answered)

outcome: direct, pre-defined effect of the output related to goals and objectives of the library’s planning (e.g. number of users, user satisfaction levels)

impact: difference or change in an individual or group resulting from the contact with library services

value: importance that stakeholders (funding institutions, politicians, the public, users, staff) attach to libraries and which is related to the perception of actual or potential benefit

ISO (2014) Information and documentation — Methods and procedures for assessing the impact of libraries, ISO 16439. Switzerland: ISO.










7 p’s of marketing




Physical evidence





  • Who is my audience for the evaluation?How do I ensure I report results that are of value to them in a way that suits them?
  • Who is my study population?
  • How do I ensure I gather information from my priority customers?
  • How do I ensure I include measures that demonstrate the value of librarians as well as the library?

Starr S (2013) Creating brand love for libraries: can we be a kind of paradise? J Med Lib Assoc 101(3), 168 – 170

Shore, E. (2013) The role of the library in the transformative higher education environment: or fitting our measures to our goals. Presented at the 10th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, University of York, 22-25 July, 2013

  • Are you going to measure value and/or impact?
  • What do you want to evaluate – the whole library / specific resources and services – or both
  • Do you have indicators or objectives that you want to evaluate?
  • Are you going to include measures that enable to you increase value and impact?

Where do you conduct your study:

  • email survey
  • web survey
  • focus groups
  • Interviews (phone or face-to-face)
  • observation
  • triangulation (combining approaches)

Dunn, K., Brewer, K., Gard Marshall, J. and Sollenberger, J. (2009) Measuring the value and impact of health sciences libraries: planning an update and replication of the Rochester study, Journal of the Medical Library Association, 97(4): 308-312.

physical evidence
Physical evidence
  • What is the best way of gathering that evidence - quantitative or qualitative measures?

Survey questions:

        • Is each question necessary?
        • How will I use the results of each question? (does it show satisfaction; tell you if something needs to change, and how, or provide context)
  • Will questions make sense to respondents? (jargon free)
  • Do question and answer options match? (Try reading the question and each answer option out loud)
  • How will I report the results of each question? (Will you group categories. Will your categories make powerful statements in your final report)
  • Which questions will I make mandatory?
survey tips
Survey tips
  • Pilot the survey
  • Personalize the request, stressing the importance of the survey and assuring confidentiality.
  • Send at least one, and ideally two or even three, reminders.
  • If you amend the questionnaire, keep it brief.
  • Consider the use of a financial incentive such as a lottery draw.

Weightman, A., Urquhart, C., Spink, S. and Thomas, R. (2009) The value and impact of information provided through library services for patient care: developing guidance for best practice, Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26,63-71.

Best practices for improving survey participation

Smart survey design by survey monkey

Library taxonomy: the value of library and information services in hospitals and academic health services centers

Abels, EG, et al. (2002) Journal of the Medical Library Association, 90(3), 276-284.

performance indicators
Performance indicators

Dalton, M. (2012) Key performance indicators in Irish hospital libraries: developing outcome-based metrics to support advocacy and service delivery, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 7A.

Critical incident technique

reporting impact
Reporting impact

Following 13 interviews, our researcher produced a report of results under identified themes

  • better informed workers in the drugs sector
  • better informed policy
  • programme and project development
  • better informed interventions with service users
  • improved course educational development
  • better informed written outputs
impact assessment method
Impact Assessment Method

Ten item scale used to measure impact at McGill University

Pluye, P., Grad, R.M., Stephenson, R. and Dunikowski, L.G. (2005) A new impact assessment method to evaluate knowledge resources, AMIA 2005 Symposium Proceedings, 609-613.

Information Impact Assessment Method -


Do you have a budget?

Costs –

  • recruiting an external researcher
  • purchase access to survey provider
  • staff time - how long will it take to prepare, administer, analyse, write up and promote?

How will you communicate your results?

  • for customers
  • for health practitioners (?potential customers)
  • for funders
  • for other librarians

What are the pieces of the puzzle that have to fit together and in what time-frame?

  • Do you need to get approval from senior managers?
  • When is the best time to conduct a study?
  • Do you have a deadline e.g. your annual report?
  • How long do you give your responders?
  • Do you need a gantt chart to show timelines?

We have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but that there are many tools and resources to help us as librarians demonstrate the importance of our work.


Validating A Librarian’s Unique Expertise


Impressing Managers & Practitioners About Change Transfer