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

Library Use Value Calculator Updated

   March 1st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Little Professor calculatorThis post isn't about the current ebook debacle, because Bobbi and Kate are doing a better job than I could.

This is just a quick announcement that I've updated the Library Use Value Calculator - here's a rundown of the changes:

  • Updated costs, in conjunction with staff from the MLA
  • Added lines for ebooks* and music downloads
  • Removed the distinction between magazines/newspapers browsed in library and those checked out (my feeling was, if they used them at all, it counts)
  • Changed some wording and reordered the services to (hopefully) make things more clear - materials at the top, services at the bottom
  • Added additional instructions on how to host or modify the calculator code yourself

I also wanted to add a "Share on Facebook" link, but I haven't tackled that yet. If anyone is looking for a project, let me know.

All of this is available at http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net/librarycalculator. If you already had the calculator embedded in your library website, the updates will take effect automatically.

If anyone has any questions, or needs help with the calculator, please let me know.


*Ironically. Perhaps I need to add more javascript so that if someone enters a number higher than 26, the calculator automatically adds additional copies to the cost.

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Worth Their Weight

   May 23rd, 2007 Brian Herzog

cover of the Worth Their Weight report from the ALCThe topic of economic justification of libraries seems omnipresent, and looms over libraries of all sizes.

I recently wrote about the Library Use Value Calculator on my library's website, which is a simple tool that tries to give the cost of libraries some context. It shows just how much money a patron would have to spend in order to receive the same materials and services outside the library, in an effort to make the tax money they spend on the library a bit more tangible.

I bring this up again because, earlier this month, the Americans for Libraries Council released a report called "Worth Their Weight: An Assessment of the Evolving Field of Library Valuation" (info; pdf [1.3M]). It's 104 pages long, and provides "an overview of the cutting-edge field of library valuation, or models for expressing a library's multiple contributions to its community in dollars and cents."

I haven't read the whole thing, but I did read page 24 - where they mention the Chelmsford Library and the Library Calculator.

Chapter 3 of the report is titled "Examples Illustrating Methodologies and Trends," and under Section 3.6 - Encouraging Developments, they cite how we adapted for our website the Library Value Calculator from the MLA, and that it subsequently spread to other libraries as a valuable tool.

So, hooray for recognition. But more importantly, the report covers many aspects of library valuation, including valuation methods and tools, tips from the private sector, and additional case studies and examples from other libraries. Any library facing budget issues or closure might benefit from this report.

More Library Valuation resources:

Thanks to staff from the Montgomery City-County (AL) Public Library for point out this report to me.
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