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Id 110
Author Huysmans, F., ; Oomes, M.,
Title Measuring the public library's societal value: A methodological research program.

Huysmans, F. & Oomes, M. (2013). Measuring the public library’s societal value: A methodological research program. IFLA Journal, 39 (2): 168-177.

Keywords Libraries; Netherlands; Outcomes; Social Impact; Measurement
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Abstract Public libraries in the Netherlands face growing scepticism about their value to communities and society at large. The digitization of media, information and communication gives rise to questions about the library’s function, as it still is based mainly on physical service provision. Furthermore, the current economic recession causes local, regional and national governments to critically question every euro spent on cultural institutions. In this climate, there is a growing need for public libraries to show their worth – not only in an economical, but also in a more sociological sense. As standardized measurements for these values are still lacking, a research program was started to develop these outcome measurements. In this paper, we sketch the rationale behind this program and the steps the Netherlands Institute of Public Libraries is taking to develop a measurement instrument geared at validly and reliably demonstrating the societal value of public libraries. Results from the first stages of the research program will be presented: a theoretical framework of the (possible) impact of libraries on Dutch society, based on the findings of a literature study and qualitative research. The findings help us identify and conceptually enrich five domains of possible impact: cognitive, social, cultural, affective and economical. This outcome framework will guide the development of a measuring instrument.

Metodology The research path is divided into two phases, each comprising several steps. The first phase comprises a preliminary investigation that consists of a literature study, a qualitative study and a quantitative survey research. The results of the first two steps (literature and qualitative study) will give a first glimpse at the possible domains that libraries have an impact on, at least in Dutch society. In the third and last step of this phase these domains will be converted into a questionnaire in order to get a first grip on the user’s experience on outcome: what (general) benefits that we found in the qualitative and literature study do they actually recognize and/or experience? The findings stemming fromthese first three research steps help us identify and conceptually enrich domains of possible outcome and will result in a theoretical framework that will guide the development of a measuring instrument. The development of the actual instrument(s) is the central focus of the second stage of the research project. Insights from the literature study, qualitative study, survey research, as well as from an expert meeting that will be organized in the autumn of 2012, will be used to develop one or multiple questionnaires geared at validly and reliably demonstrating the societal value of public libraries. This questionnaire offers the operational definitions of the outcome concept that we choose to study and offers ways to measure it. For this purpose the concept will be split up into research dimensions (the qualities of the concept), indicators (measurable evidence, i.e. actions or behaviours) and, finally, questions.

DOI 10.1177/0340035213486412
Search Database WoS (Web of Science)
Technique Interview; Questionnaire; Literature review
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