or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




Demonstrating The Value of Libraries

   June 30th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Update 7/13/09: Final state budget lightens hit to Ohio libraries

Save Ohio LibrariesThis post is unfortunately timely - by now you've heard of the cuts facing Ohio libraries.

I haven't said anything about this because it's been covered elsewhere, but it really worries me. I have friends and family that both work in and regularly use Ohio libraries. And I know how badly a 5% cut affected my library this year - I can't even imagine a 50% cut.

The value of libraries is difficult to illustrate (one might say immeasurable), which makes proposals like Gov. Strickland's possible. Libraries need to make a special effort to demonstrate our role and importance in our communities.

Two years ago I posted about the Library Use Value Calculator - a tool to let patrons calculate how much their library use is worth to them. I've been working with the ALA on version 2.0 of the library calculator (as part of their Tough Times Toolkit), and even though it's still in beta, I wanted to get it out there.

The new version looks and works the same, it's just easier for libraries to implement. Instead of having to muck around with coding, libraries can now embed it in their website web 2.0-style, just by copy/pasting a bit of code (like a YouTube video).

Please check out the new calculator, and add it to your library website - let me know if you need help. And if you are in a position to do so, please Support Ohio Libraries.



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The Cost (and Value) of Libraries

   April 10th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I liked Jessamyn's post about the high cost of everything. Databases are expensive, and intangible, which makes it trickier to justify them. But librarians are often challenged to justify our existence in general, and the burden is usually on us to convey to the public how valuable libraries are.

This talk about how much things cost reminded me of the Library Use Value Calculator. This tool lets patrons enter their library usage (how many books they check out, how many reference questions they ask, etc), and see a dollar figure of how much their library usage would cost them if they had to pay for it "retail."

The calculator we use started as a spreadsheet developed by the Massachusetts Library Association, which I then converted to javascript to be more interactive. The Maine State Library then approached me, asking if they could edit my code and make available a more accessibility-enabled version with installation instructions.

They did, and since then it has spread. Here's a list of library websites that either feature or link to the calculator (if I missed you, please include a link to your library in the comment section). Below that are a few other blogs and websites that mention the calculator, including Library Journal and PLA.

If you're a librarian and looking for a tool to justify your existence, this might be a way to give people actual numbers. Feel free to modify and reuse the calculator code yourself, and let me know if I can help - bherzog@mvlc.org.

Libraries using the Library Use Value Calculator

People talking about the Library Use Value Calculator

Again, If you're a librarian and looking for a tool to justify your existence, this might be a way to give people actual numbers. Feel free to modify and reuse the calculator code yourself, and let me know if I can help - bherzog@mvlc.org.

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