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February 6, 2012
The Value of Law Libraries and the Wise Latina
Last week I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting a big law librarian fan, Justice Sotomayor. I also had the great pleasure of hearing her wax poetically to my deans and faculty about how important the library is to the study of law and how pleased she was to know Richardson's librarians are teaching in the formal curriculum. Did I mention how much I adore Justice Sotomayor? :)
In our profession, we are often praised in private circles with phrases such as "I could never have found this without you" or "I don't know what I would have done without your help." Sometimes, we even get mentioned in a footnote! Sometimes we get a bottle of wine, or a bunch of flowers, but it is rare to receive the satisfaction of public acolades or, to be more direct, monetary renumeration. Because it is, afterall, our job to perform these services.
Nevertheless, despite all our good work, it is the library that frequently ends up on the short end of the budget planning. We don't produce revenue, we take up a lot of space, and we spend a big chunk of money. How do we justify our value?
Here enters the Lib-Value project - Phase III of an international project to develop ROI measures that demonstrate the value of academic and research libraries in concrete terms that administrators and the public could appreciate, i.e., monetary terms. A brief review of the work produced by this project follows:
- Phase I sought to develop a quantitative measure of the library’s return on investment (ROI) by tying faculty’s use of library materials to the generation of grant income. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the evil publisher de jour, Elsevier, developed a formula using data on the library’s budget, faculty grant income, and faculty surveys. The 2006 result recorded a return of $4.38 in grant income for every dollar invested in the library.
- Phase II investigated the amount of competitive grant funding universities receive when faculty submit grant proposals that include citations acquired from library electronic collections. Result: For every monetary unit invested in the library, the respective institutions receive an ROI of between 15.54:1 and 0.64:1 in research grant income alone.
- The most recent report, UK Scholarly Reading and the Value of Library Resources, was released by JISC this month as part of Phase III of the project. According to JISC:
University libraries are saving academics time by helping them find quality material more quickly, says a new report.
Academics are choosing the library as their first choice for getting hold of scholarly material because access is quick, it helps them make new connections to related information and the library may be the only place they can access that material.
The report also considered how academics might fare without the benefit of libraries. It did not look good for our intrepid scholar. The researchers predicted that without the benefit of a library, scholars would find fewer relevant articles and it would take them much longer to find those fewer articles.
Now, I know you are all saying: Yes, we already know that and obviously the wise Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court knows that too. But now you can point to a funded study to support that idea and present it to the bean counters. With the budget planning season soon upon us, why not pass along this study to your dean? Or your senior faculty? Or your fund raising office? You might want to throw Phases I and II in there for good measure because I have a feeling the budget cuts are not yet over. (VS)