The Value of Libraries
The value of our libraries has long been a fact for those of us who work within them and use them regularly, both remotely and on-site. But how we evaluate and quantify this value has taken on a greater importance in recent months. In the face of fee rises, policy makers and students are increasingly calling on universities to demonstrate the bang they offer for students’ buck. As an integral and expanding provider of student services, libraries will be at the forefront of demonstrating university value. The good news is that libraries are well placed to do so.
Last week, the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) held its Annual Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff, the theme throughout was the value of libraries. The breadth of work on this subject undertaken by SCONUL, its members and associated groups such as the Joint Information Services Committee is both substantial and compelling.
Graham Stone, Electronic Resources Manager at Huddersﬁeld University, showed preliminary ﬁndings of a study into library use and pupil attainment. Results show that students who used the library most frequently got the best grades. Meanwhile, Carol Tenopir of the University of Tennessee provided details of an on-going study into the value of libraries to academics. Again, the results are striking, with academics accessing nearly double the number of library articles as they were in 1977. From 1993, the average number has increased from 188 to 295 per month.
In the past, libraries have often hidden their light beneath a bushel. Library managers have known about the positive impact their services have on student and academic success for years. With these new reports, they are a step closer to quantifying and demonstrating this value to others.
Libraries make an enormous contribution to the education of our young people and the development of research that drives economic growth and scientiﬁc understanding. We should be both proud of these achievements and excited at the prospect of showcasing them. In the coming months, we expect these studies to highlight the returns on investment experienced by universities that value their libraries.
SCONUL Executive Director