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Cost Benefit and ROI Calculator for Databases

What does your library contribute to the bottom line?

How much benefit does your institution, your user, receive for every dollar spent by the library on databases? What's the annual return your institution realizes on what you spend on databases? Cost/Benefit Analysis and Return on Investment are measures often used by financial managers to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of their budget policies.

Figuring these out for databases is a little more difficult than for other library services. Databases are often purchased bundled with other products and different vendors define use statistics in multiple ways that make if difficult to compare across databases. Click here for some considerations about database statistics.

  • When choosing which statistics to enter, select databases for which use statistics are similar.
    • For instance, select one of these:
      • number of search sessions
      • number of full text articles clicked on
      • number of tables of contents retrieved
    • Number of page or file hits is less useful because these can be counted in several different ways and could include things like gifs, jpegs, etc.
  • The cost will be affected by
    • Whether she could pay an information broker to do one search. If your customer can buy search services decide how many "searches" a session represents.
      • For instance, if the database is CINAHL, which an individual isn't likely to subscribe to but an information broker is then a session might represent one search done by the broker
      • Decide how much a broker might charge for a search - perhaps 1 hour per search at $150/hour
    • Whether she has to subscribe for an entire year then figure out how many times an individual will use it in a year.
      • If your UpToDate statistics show 230,880 sessions you might decide that one clinician uses UpToDate 3 times per week. That means that her use per year is 3 uses per week times 52 weeks or 156 sessions.
      • The 230,880 sessions divided by 156 sessions per person represents 1480 individuals who would pay between $199 and $499 each for a personal subscription to UpToDate. You would enter 1480 in the first box (database sessions) and $499 (or whatever you think is the average personal subscription price for UpToDate [not the library's cost] in the second box (Average Retail Cost).
  • Then you need to decide how much time the user saves because you've provided access to UpToDate. In this case, since you are figuring the cost per year you would enter the number of hours saved per year.
  • Determine the cost to the library for the database(s)
  • Determine the percentage of ALL library staff time devoted to managing and teaching users about the database(s)

Once you have selected the statistics to use, fill in the fields in the table. Values will calculate as you move through the table. The Cost/Benefit ratio and the Return on Investment percentage will display at the bottom of the table.

Tip: Tab between entries and do not use commas.

Be sure to try the Retail Value Calculator to demonstrate the benefit of all library services and resources and the ROI Calculator that shows the value of your book and journal collections.

Salary Information:

Annual Salary

$ $
Benefits Costs
Database use $ $
$ $


For more information contact Betsy Kelly, Assessment and Evaluation Liaison or Barb Jones, Advocacy Liaison