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University of Oregon Libraries Assessment

A place to find evidence, data, and research of library value and impact.

University of Oregon Libraries

Library Value Calculation Experiment 2020  - Collections

In 2009, the Cornell University Library shared a library value calculation experiment:

“We all know that maintaining a research library requires a large investment.  The annual expenditure figures of a library quantify the investment, but do not tell the whole story. How do we quantify the other side of the story, the contributions the library makes in return to the university”

The UO Libraries has duplicated this library value calculation experiment based on the same methodology with updated data for 2020.

The bottom line remains the same in 2009 as in 2020, even a partial list of how the UO Libraries is used everyday shows that the UO Libraries generate more value than how much money is expended on supporting library operations.


It cost $18,331,796 to maintain UO Libraries in 2018/2019.

This includes Knight Library, the Design Library, Mathematics Library, Portland Library & Learning Commons, Price Science Commons & Research Library, Rippey Library, and Special Collections & University Archives (and excludes the John E. Jaqua Law Library). This figure does not include Fringe Benefits.


If the UO Libraries did not exist, the University of Oregon last year would have to pay an estimated total of $53,516,548 for the following partial list of services that are comparable:


For the use of physical volumes:

The assumption is that access to a volume through borrowing it from the library is worth a user 50% of what it would cost to purchase a book.

The 2009 Cornell calculation uses 50% of the average unit order cost for library-like content (price + shipping): $26.12 (although obviously a lot of volumes we provide access to are not available at Amazon and are a lot more valuable than Amazon’s average title. It is not clear where Cornell derived their Amazon calculation from. The 2018/2019 UO Libraries calculation uses the 2017 U.S. College Book Prices from Choice[1] which suggests an average of $72.67 and is a more accurate picture of the types of materials the UO Libraries purchase to support the University of Oregon.

In 2018/2019 UO Libraries owned titles were used 98,997 times (general and reserve charges excluding renewals, laptop and equipment charges.)

Books not owned by University of Oregon Libraries were borrowed for UO users 26,103 times a year (Summit and Interlibrary Loan)

Calculation:  125,100 x ($72.67 x 50%)


for articles accessed online and through interlibrary services:

The assumption is that a commercial pay-per-view charge fairly describes the value of accessing a scholarly article.

Number of full text article request from licensed core online sources in reported to ARL for 2019 was: 3,034,749 (not all downloads can be tracked, so the actual number is higher than this.)

Non-returnable interlibrary borrowing transactions in 2018/2019: 14,501.
Pay-per-view charge for Science Direct in the absence of a license: $32.00

The original Cornell calculation uses 50% of Science Direct charge to attempt to average out price differences among a wide range of disciplines and that technique is duplicated here.

Calculation: 3,049,250 x ($32x50%)


for streaming multimedia such a films, media and video accessed through UO Libraries results:

The UO Libraries multimedia collections were used 45,760 in FY 2019[2].

The American Library Association library value calculator[3] suggests using $4.00 based on a Netflix average.

Calculation: 45,760 x $4.00


What’s missing from these value calculations:

  • Use figures are not available for some parts of our electronic collections (e.g. use of our approximately 1,086,846 e-books, some of our licensed e-journals and electronic databases, some locally produced and maintained digital collections.) 

  • Use figures from Scholars’ Bank the UO Libraries digital institutional repository or pre-print and post-print scholarly work.

  • Use figures are not available for our public computers, carrels, and un-reservable study spaces.

  • It is difficult to assign a dollar value to library instruction, reference, and consultations and what it contributes to students’ educational outcomes.

  • It is difficult to quantify the value of unique and rare materials (e.g. archival material and rare books)

  • We are not including library discovery services in these calculations since it can be argued that the value is included in the delivery of the items discovered.

(unless otherwise noted – UO Libraries usage statistics are pulled from those reported to ARL for FY2019)