University Investment in the Library: What’s the Return? A Case Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (2008)

University investment in the library: What’s the return?

In the spring of 2006, colleagues at Elsevier and I started noticing a theme arising in our individual conversations with customers. Librarians told us that their administrations were asking for research performance measurement, cost justification, and return on investment. Carol Tenopir had recently completed research that demonstrated the positive impact of electronic access on productivity. Both librarians and publishers had a hunch that such gains could subsequently have a positive impact on university funding. We collectively discussed the need for a return on investment (ROI) model that could apply to academic libraries, something that would articulate value in terms that would speak to the university administration. The model would need to encompass the value of all library content and not be limited to a single publisher’s product.

At our North American Library Advisory Board (NALAB) in the fall, we proposed the idea of conducting a case study with an academic institution. Paula Kaufman immediately and boldly raised her hand to volunteer the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, providing access to their records, data, and wonderfully brilliant staff. Since then, we’ve assembled an esteemed team, including Carol Tenopir, Judy Luther, and Kira Cooper from Elsevier. It’s been a long year on this project, but at every step of the way we received ideas and encouragement from librarians from California to Alabama to Oslo. The study resonates with everyone we encounter, and I am very pleased that Elsevier has been able to partner with UIUC on such an ambitious project.

The results presented here are but a first step. We hope this information will generate dialog, debate, and increased appreciation for the library and the value of information resources to academic institutions.

Chrysanne Lowe
Vice President, Global Customer Marketing, Elsevier