Library investment benefits bottom line, survey states

August 14, 2010

Researchers believe they have found a correlation between investment in university library collections and levels of grant income.

A 16-month study, led by Carol Tenopir, director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee, found that for every dollar spent on academic libraries, institutions receive a return of more than a dollar in research-grant income.

This holds true for six out of the eight universities studied worldwide, with the highest return found to be 15.5:1.

Two North American institutions also show a correlation between increased library investment and increased grant funding.

The study, funded by the journal publisher Elsevier, draws on academic surveys and interviews with university administrators, as well as quantitative data on grant proposals, grant income and library budgets. It is part of an ongoing project to develop a return-on-investment model for library spending.

The resulting report, University Investment in the Library, Phase II: An International Study of the Librarys Value to the Grants Process, says that library e-collections in particular play a vital role in all aspects of the grants process, from proposal writing to final reports.

It also notes that returns on investment vary according to institutional goals and national funding environments.

“Our research shows that the collections and services of all university libraries help faculty write better grant proposals and articles, and help them do better research,” Dr Tenopir added.

The next phase of the study, to be funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the US, will involve a three-year project to develop other measures of return on library investment, such as libraries’ contributions to research, teaching, learning and “socialisation”.

Respondents to the survey also report that they spend at least 3.5 hours a week searching for articles and at least 9.8 hours reading them.

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