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   Defining services and determining the value of resources and services provided by a library can be complicated and time consuming. Definitions below are drawn from the AAHSL Annual Survey, the MLA Benchmarking project and the authors' concepts. When assigning value, you should establish the price a user would pay to get the same resource or service elsewhere when the library is no longer an option.
  • The cost of a medical text book, the individual subscription price for a print or electronic journal, or the cost of a single reprint of a journal article is often available by searching Amazon or a journal providers web site. The difficulty is in determining the value of a single use of a journal. You might want to assume that each use is equivalent to the cost of obtaining a single article.
  • The public library may be able to provide interlibrary loans. What do they charge in your area?
  • The cost of photocopies, computer access and printing can be set to what Kinko's or a similar store charges.
  • The value of a class taught by a librarian could be compared to the cost of a continuing education class at a community college or a software training company, assuming the class content is available from those sources.

A list of estimated or average values with explanation

Resource or Service
Estimated Retail Value
Values Explained
Definition of Service
Print and e- books
Average cost of a print book purchased by an academic medical library in 2008 Print and e-books used in the library, checked out by users, or accessed online. Determine what data your vendors provide and try to be consistent across vendors. Consider TOC, Chapters or Pages viewed.
Print journal
Estimated cost to purchase a single copy of an article from a publisher Use shelving statistics for print journals and decide what each item shelved represents. You might assume that each physical item represents, on average, one article read. Users might read more than one article or none, looking only at the table of contents or index. You decide what the average is per physical item. You might want to conduct a brief survey, asking users how many articles they read for each item taken off the shelf. Use an average of their responses.
Estimated cost to purchase a single article from an ejournal vendor Vendors provide use statistics for e-journals. As for print journals decide what that use represents. If it's hits on Tables of Contents, or hits per issue, that could represent, on average, one article read per hit. If the vendor supplies article level stats you can use that. You may need to adjust different vendor stats so the common denominator is articles read.
Document delivery
The national maximum charge for items borrowed through Docline is $11 plus 63% Document delivery includes items supplied by other libraries for your primary and affiliated users and items copied or delivered from your library collection to your primary and affiliated users. Do not count items sent to other libraries.
Reference questions answered
Information broker's fee A reference question is an information request that requires knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources. Count mediated searches as specific requests under the Mediated searches line. Do not include directional questions.
Mediated searches
Information broker's fee for a search Include database searches completed at the specific request of a user. Database searches performed in the process of answering a reference question is counted under Reference Questions answered.
Class contact hours
Per hour charge for continuing education computer class from a local college Multiply the number of classes taught times the number of hours each class lasted times the number of students in each class. Classes taught over several sessions are considered one class that lasted the total hours of the combined sessions. Example: 1 class, 2 hours per week for 4 weeks, with 5 students totals 40 class contact hours. You are determining what each student would pay for a class of x total hours. This is a 8 hour class. It could be taught in one day, two days or two hours a week for 4 week.
AVs used or borrowed
Estimated cost of one AV title Because AVs are often very expensive and more difficult to find you may want to value them separately from other formats.
Self service photocopies
Per page price of photocopies at a public library Use the number of photocopies made by users not by library staff
Meeting room use
Estimate Some organizations charge back for using rooms and other facilities. Skip this service if you organization does not charge or if the library has no role in room reservations/use.
Hours of computer use, e.g., library catalog, Internet and MS Word
Price for standard computer software access at FedexKinkos; Printing is extra so you may want to add printing as a service to calculate. FedexKinko's charges $.49/page B&W, $.89/page color (St. Louis 2/2008) Often the library is the only place where staff have access to a computer with general productivity software and/or for internet searches. Multiply the number of hours per week computers in the library are available to users times 52 weeks. Estimate the percentage of time the computers are actually in use and multiple the total hours per year by that. Example: Library open 40 hours per week, 3 computers for users are in use 50% of the time. Total computer use is 40*52*3*.50 = 3120 hours. If your library is available 24/7 with card or key access estimate use or conduct an occasional survey asking users to note date/time they used computers when the library is closed.

Back to Retail Value Calculator

Members are encouraged to contact their liaison, the Assessment and Evaluation Liaison or the RML office with questions, concerns or for assistance in designing and conducting evaluation of their programs.

Contact Betsy Kelly, Liaison for Assessment and Evaluation, with questions or comments about the program or for assistance in designing evaluation criteria for outreach projects and activities.