Methods for demonstrating the value of public libraries in the UK: a literature review


  • Christine Rooney-Browne



public libraries, performance measurement, evaluations


This paper summarises the findings of a report commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals' (CILIP) Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) to produce a comprehensive review of existing quantitative and qualitative evaluation methodologies for demonstrating the value of public libraries in the United Kingdom (UK). A thorough literature review of existing research was carried out and an investigation into best practices for evaluating impact was conducted. A wide range of journals and books published within the fields of library and information science and social research have been consulted. Relevant White Papers and Reviews; such as those published by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC); the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Department of Culture, Sport and Media (DCMS); and the American Library Association (ALA) have been analysed. Additional online searches helped to identify models of best practice; and the most up to date methods currently in use for measuring value outside of the UK. During the early stages of the literature review it became clear that a limited amount of research has been carried out in the UK field of public library valuation. Although academic researchers at Loughborough, Sheffield and Strathclyde University have published various journal articles and reports on this topic there is a lack of evidence that local authorities have been implementing the methodologies that the academics have recommended. Although it is possible that some local authorities may be working in isolation to implement bespoke evaluation methodologies it has been difficult to uncover examples of best practice in the UK. Therefore, as the literature review progressed the author expanded beyond the UK public library sector, and into the broader areas of economics, sociology and psychology. This enabled a more thorough understanding of the increase in evaluations, incentives, benchmarking, objective setting, accountability; and social and economic auditing. It is anticipated that the findings of this research will help the sector to develop more appropriate models for demonstrating the value of public libraries in the 21st century. The original report was compiled in June 2010.

Author Biography

Christine Rooney-Browne

Christine Rooney-Browne is a PhD student based within the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. The aim of Christine's research is to develop an appropriate model for measuring the social value of public libraries. Christine is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).






Invited Contributions