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Assessing the Economic Value of Public Library Collections and Services:
A Review of the Literature and Meta-Analysis


About META

Valuation Studies

META Project Results


META Research Team

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© 2009 META


META Project Methodology

Phase 1: Data Collection and Organization

The first step in this process will be the identification and assembly of a comprehensive international collection of empirical studies that report economic benefit measures developed using the four approaches previously indicated:

        1)    Contingent valuation,

        2)    Cost-benefit analysis,

        3)    Economic modeling techniques, and

        4)    Externality assessments.

As these are assembled, the research team will create bibliographic records for each study as well as meta-data that indicate the elements used to create these measurements, the type of benefit reported, the size of the benefit effect, and additional contextual variables that are likely to influence the size of the benefit effects reported.  These descriptive and contextual elements will be drawn primarily from the meta-analysis eligibility criteria developed by Lipsey and Wilson (2001), but exemplary meta-analysis research studies conducted in the medical, environmental, and public policy domains will also be reviewed in order to develop a wide and theoretically supported coding scheme.

These data will be entered into a master database of studies and their content will be later used to create and annotated literature review that clarifies and summarizes the contributions that these studies have made, as well as their progress toward a comprehensive research agenda.  Both of these products, the database and the literature review, are intended to create a firm foundation for the META project, but when they are made available, they will also minimize the scholarly resources required for a wide range of subsequent economic assessment studies.

Once the research team has created the master database, the benefit estimates will be parsed into four additional data files, each of which will contain benefit effect findings produced using the four previously described assessment strategies.  In contrast to the master database, these data files will have one record for each benefit effect reported and each benefit effect will be coded using the same metric.  In cases where a study has used more than one assessment strategy, the study and its descriptive elements will appear in more than one data file.    


Phase 2: Data Analysis

Phase 2 efforts will focus on the development of a rigorous meta-analysis model that explores the size and underlying relationships that characterize the selected economic value assessments.  The calculations will treat the measurements in each file separately since the effect measures in the files are methodologically distinct (Lipsey and Wilson, 2001).  Although the model calculations cannot be developed without reference to the data, it is expected that it will treat the benefit estimates in each file as “single variable relationships” similar to measurements that record test scores and other observations with values that are represented with a single variable (Lipsey and Wilson, 2001, p. 38).

Once the model is developed, it will be used to systematically explore the consistency of the economic value estimates, their predictable magnitude, and the contextual factors that figure in their variation.  The results of these analyses should provide a clearer picture of value estimates that might be used to characterize the economic value of public libraries at a national level, identify some of the relative merits of typically used assessment strategies, and expose some of the factors that might be manipulated in order to increase the return on public library investments.

Phase 3: Results and Dissemination

Phase 3 efforts will focus on two related objectives.  First, once completed, the proposed analyses should provide new insight concerning public libraries’ contributions to the economic prosperity of the communities they serve and the levels of economic benefit that are likely to accrue from public library services.  Ongoing dissemination of these results within the academic and research communities can be expected to produce a sharper focus on these issues while encouraging cooperative dialog and peer assessments.  In order to accomplish these objectives, progress reports will be made while the project is ongoing, and the results of the study will be presented in research and practice oriented publications, workshops, and presentations at professional meetings.

The second objective focuses on the development of continuing education, workshop, and curricular resources that provide models for the integration of results of the literature review and meta-analysis into effective advocacy presentations.  The need for these materials was raised at an October 2007 Council of State Library Agencies in the Northeast (COSLINE) workshop, and development of these web-based materials falls within the ongoing relationship between the University of South Carolina Center for Teaching Excellence and the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science (SLIS).  SLIS has long been a leader in developing distance education products, and these teaching modules will be made nationally available on the SLIS website.


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Last updated 05/01/09