Library return on investment: Defending the contingent valuation method for public benefits estimation

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10 Scopus citations


Many library return on investment (ROI) studies have been conducted in the United States. Most rely on "cost savings" approaches to determine the marginal benefits of library services. These methods fail to logically have a meaningful relationship to theoretical benefits estimation. Adaptations of the contingent valuation method (CVM) to this application are discussed in reference to the well-known National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration panel guidelines and recent literature. A CVM technique is used to estimate median annual household benefits for Minnesota public library services. Results indicate that CVM likely leads to more conservative estimates than "cost savings" approaches, which is probably due to the realities of available substitutes and low patron marginal benefits from additional transactions. Evidence is provided to limit the usual concerns of the utilized methodology. Focusing on programs for low income and education households may create higher returns more directly attributable to these services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalLibrary and Information Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was made possible by support provided by the Minnesota Department of Education . The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Minnesota Department of Education or the Minnesota Public Library Systems. A debt of gratitude is due to library employees who provided feedback and assistance. Professors Nicholas Flores, John Loomis, and William Greene deserve thanks for helpful advice. It is also appropriate to recognize other members of the University of Minnesota Duluth Bureau of Business and Economic Research team for this project: Jim Skurla, Jean Jacobson, Don McTavish, and undergraduate research assistants Tanner Genest and Josh Jaeschke.


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