Measuring the impact of libraries, museums and archives – a joint programme

Elaine Fulton, Director, Scottish Library and Information Council/CILIPS, and a member of the Board of Directors of the LIS Research Coalition, has contributed a guest blog post on a joint programme to measure the impact of libraries, museums and archives. Elaine writes:

ALMA-UK is a forum for the libraries, museums and archives strategic bodies across the UK. It provides a focus for information sharing and collaboration on joint projects of mutual benefit.

In 2010, ALMA-UK commissioned a scoping study to consider the economic impact of libraries, museums and archives to their communities. The group recognised that there were a couple of models which have been used but which have not quite been satisfactory across the domains. The remit of the study was to: (1) map and analyse all known economic impact studies relevant to the UK museums, libraries and archives sector; (2) consult with sector stakeholders to determine the kind of economic impact data already being collected and the primary barriers to effective data collection; (3) investigate other comparable toolkits and models of best practice; (4) recommend the best methodologies and toolkit approaches for use by museum, library and archive organisations, both large and small and across all four UK nations; and (5) consider the processes and indicative costs for developing and piloting the toolkits.

An initial scoping study is available in English and in Welsh. In summary, the study identified that it was much easier to articulate and develop an economic model for museums and archives, but much more difficult to do so for libraries given the nature and pattern of use by users. As a result the project was split into two.

Museums and archives focused on the development of an economic impact toolkit (.xls) to help create transparent, locally-relevant impact reports capable of withstanding economists’ scrutiny. There is also a guidance document for this toolkit (pdf).

For public libraries the partners agreed to develop a toolkit for return on investment. SLIC, CyMAL and Libraries NI brought together their funding so that the toolkit can be used in all public libraries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Colleagues in England may be able to access the toolkit at a later date. It has taken some months to ensure that robust, relevant and easily understood questions were developed for the toolkit. It was also crucial that the subsequent data could be then translated into a value on return on investment. The final arrangements are being put in place to use the toolkit in a “live” situation in March/April 2012 and then assess the outputs. We hope that the toolkit will be available shortly thereafter.

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