A Return on Investment Study of Salt Lake County Library Services (2013)

This study is a major research paper completed for an Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree at the University of Utah in July 2013.


To calculate ROI for Salt Lake County Library Services (SLCoLibrary), a mixed-methods approach was used to quantify the value of the public libraries in Salt Lake County. In the first phase of the study, an online survey was fielded to collect data from library patrons. The survey used a contingent valuation method by asking specific questions about patrons’ library use and their willingness to pay for similar services in the absence of a library. The contingent valuation is defined as “a set of techniques and hypothetical institutions that can be used to elicit for a non-market good (Ralston et al. p. 116).” In the second phase of the study, 2012 library use statistics were obtained from SLCoLibrary to determine a monetary equivalent of the services provided by the library. Finally, an indirect economic impact analysis was performed using library expenditures in 2012. Indirect economic impact analysis measures indirect benefits of a library on the local economy through library expenditures such as employee wages, books, supplies, and construction activities.

The mixed-method approach is likely to capture majority characteristics of a library. Although it is the most comprehensive strategy available, some additional positive externalities such as the impact on literacy rate, value of the knowledge information acquired using a library, or books read without a check out remain hard to determine in any ROI study.


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