Is cost benefit analysis applicable to journal-use in special libraries?

Sridhar, M. S. Is cost benefit analysis applicable to journal-use in special libraries? The Serials Librarian, 1988, vol. 15, n. 1/2, pp. 137-153. [Journal article (Paginated)]


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English abstract

This paper describes the concept of cost-benefit analysis in libraries, citing early uses. The need for cost-benefit analysis in libraries is shown, as are difficulties in applying the technique in libraries. Although many cost minimising efforts have been made by libraries, “utility” measures were found to be intangible and inappropriate, and so a serious threat to the integrity of the cost-benefit analysis. A systematic random sample of journals subscribed by ISRO Satellite Centre Library was subjected to a simplified cost-benefit analysis. “Cost per use” of a journal appears to be useful ratio for assessing journals subscribed to by a library. The sample study of cost-benefit analysis of journals indicates that such a study does not answer all questions, but provides an additional dimension over and above what appears in a simple use study to an understanding of journal usage. The conclusion is drawn that many non-economic factors dominate the decision to subscribe to a journal. It is felt that a cost-benefit analysis can increase the awareness of librarians, administrators and others concerning costs and use patterns, but cannot be truly effective without the help of intuitive value judgment.

Item type: Journal article (Paginated)
Keywords: Journal subscription, cost benefit analysis, journal usage, special libraries, use studies, journals budget
Subjects: C. Users, literacy and reading. > CA. Use studies.
Depositing user: Dr. M S Sridhar
Date deposited: 17 Sep 2007
Last modified: 02 Oct 2014 12:09



1. Lester Robert Bittel ed, Encyclopedia of Professional Management, New York: McGraw Hill, 1978, p. 242.

2. Idem.

3. While CBA seeks to develop standards and criteria for determining how well the existing services of a library meet the requirements of its users, CEA aims at discovering new, improved procedures and devices for providing better services to the users. Vide Ferdinand F. Leimicuhler, Evaluation of Costs and Benefits of Libraries, Arlington, VA: ERIC Document Reproduction Service, 1978. ERICReport-ED-163947. (A paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Special Libraries Association, Kansas City, Missouri, June 1978).

4. As examples one may see the following. Herbert S. White, “Cost-Effectiveness and Cost-Benefit Determinations in Special Libraries,” Special Libraries 70 No.4 (Apr. 1979)163-169 and Leimakuhter, Op. cit. CBA has been considered as a valuable tool for increasing people’s awareness of the costs and benefits of information and documentation as a production factor and to provide better basis for budgeting and strategic planning vide Sixton Lungberg et al. “Investigation on the Use of Information in R&D at a Research Intensive Company, Phase II: Possibilities of Economic Evaluation,” Tidsk Dokum 32, No. 2 (1976) 17-23.

5. Some attempts to apply CBA to certain aspects of libraries like library unionisation and networking, union catalog, electronic security system, catalog automation, library automation network, catalog system, library delivery systems, manpower planning, etc., have already been made.

6. Gordon Wills and Christine Oldman, “An Examination of Cost Benefit Approaches to the Evaluation of Library and Information Services.” In: F.W. Lancaster and C.W. Cleverdon ed. Evaluation and Scientific Management of Libraries and Information Centres, Leydon, Noordhoff, 1977, p. 365-184.

7. Niels Jenson, “Cost-Benefit and the Library Service Just Don’t go Together,” Bibliotek, 70 No. 12(1978) 310-311 (In Danish).

8. As an example, one may see how the noneconomic considerations over-weighed the economic considerations in deciding standing order procurement of NASA reports. Vide M.S. Sridhar, “A Decision Theory Approach to Standing Order Procurement of NASA Reports,”Annals of Library Science and Documentation, 32 No. 2 (Mar-Jun 1985) 15-22.

9. Jeffrey A. Rafeel “From Economic to Political Analysis of Library Decision Making,” College and Research Libraries, 35 No. 6 (Nov 1974) 412-423.

10. D. Pitt Francis, “Cost-Benefit Analysis and Public Library Budgets,” Library Review, 25 (1976) 189-192.

11. Kent’s definition of “Use” as physical selection and the act of leafing through pages of journal was adopted. Vide Allen Kent et at, Use of Library Materials: The University of Pittsburgh Study, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1979, p. 61.

12. M.S. Sridhar, “Ratio Analysis Technique: A Tool for Assessing the Health of a Library” In: Financial Management of Library and Information Centres; Papers Presented at XII IASLIC National Seminar 1986, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, 18-31 December 1986, Calcutta: 1ASLIC, 1986, pp 137-146.

13. S.E. Robertson and Sandy Hansman, “Journal Acquisition by Libraries: Scatter and Cost-Effectiveness,” Journal of Documentation 3! No. 4 (Dec 1979) 273-282.

14. Gary D. Byrd and Michael E.D. Koenig, “Systematic Serials Selection Analysis in a Small Academic Health Sciences Library.” Bulletin of Medical Libraries Association, 66 No. 4 (Oct 1978) 397-406.

15. Donald H. Kraft and Richard A. Polacsek, “A Journal Worth Measure for a Journal Selection Decision Model,” Collection Management, 2 No. 2 (Summer 1978) 129-139.

16. Kent et al. op. cit.

17. University of Pittsburgh, the Senate Library Committee, The Study of Library Use at Pitt by Professor Allen Kent et al: A Pittsburgh Reply. University of Pittsburgh, (Jul 1979).

18. M.S. Sridhar, “Use of Current Journals by Indian Space Technologists,” The Serials Librarian 10 No. 3 (Spring 1986) 77-93.

19. Idem.


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