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Here’s an Update on Elsevier’s ROI Study Looking at Academic Libraries

Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee, Knoxville | Jan 01, 2009

In 2007, Elsevier launched a study looking at the return on an academic institution’s investment in its library. As you may recall, Phase 1 of this ROI study was described by Judy Luther in the January 2008 issue of the Library Connect Newsletter and in an extensive white paper. Both are available at www.elsevier.com/libraryconnect.

Phase 1 summary

Phase 1 worked with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which served as a case study to develop a methodology for measuring how university investment in library e-collections was returned to the university in the grant process. Grants were selected because with grants there is a direct return of funds to the university and because most universities keep records on proposals submitted and grants funded. Other investments and returns of the academic library (such as benefits for teaching, or social benefits of a collective space) are more difficult to measure and were not included. The University of Illinois’ ROI from library e-collection contributions to grant proposals was determined to be $4.38 for every dollar invested in 2006.

Phase 2 summary

Currently, Elsevier’s ROI study is in its second phase. Phase 2 tests the Phase 1 methodology in universities across the globe, including the University of Adelaide, Australia; University of Ottawa, Canada; University of Hong Kong; Waseda University, Japan; KAIST, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; University of Pretoria, South Africa; CSIC, Spanish National Research Council; and University of Tennessee, USA. Three types of information are being collected.

  1. Administrators at these universities are being interviewed to determine university policies and practices regarding grant proposals and the administrators’ perceptions of the value of the library to the grant process.
  2. Each university is providing data on the total number of grant proposals, awarded grants and monetary value of the grants over a 10-year period.
  3. Finally, faculty members are being surveyed and asked to estimate the number of articles or books cited in a typical grant proposal and accessed via a library e-collection and their perceptions of the value of the library to the grant process.

Besides quantitative data from which an ROI may be calculated, the surveys and interviews are providing many qualitative testimonials about the value of library e-collections to the research role of university faculty. The formula from Phase 1 will be applied to this new data in each of the Phase 2 participating libraries to see if the methodology is applicable to universities around the world.

The University of Illinois’ ROI from library e-collection contributions to grant proposals was determined to be $4.38 for every dollar invested in 2006.

Moving forward

Upon the conclusion of Phase 2, each participating university will receive a report on its own results and aggregated results will be reported in publications and at conferences. We hope that Phase 2 is not the end; we are seeking grant funding to extend the project into a third phase. To explore many of the other values that the academic library brings as a result of institutional investment, Phase 3 would look at academic library ROI beyond grants.

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