The organizers of the 7th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services , which will be an IFLA satellite conference in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, have accepted my paper. This means I can apply for a travel grant from Oslo University College.
The paper deals with the productivity (output versus input) of public libraries and is based on Norwegian library statistics.
The relationship between productivity and size is an important question in library development. In Norway, as in other Nordic countries, smaller branch libraries are closing down – often against strong local protests.
The recent Norwegian White Paper on libraries (2005) argues that larger units are needed to serve the new generation of users: urban, web proficient and highly educated. The White Paper argues for a minimum staff of six to eight persons – which corresponds to a service population of 15 to 20 thousand persons.
But is it true that larger libraries more productive than smaller ones? To what extent can the public library sector benefit from economies of scale? And how should productivity be measured? To answer these questions, we turn to public library statistics.
We have explored the quantitative relationship between input and output by plotting the 400+ municipal libraries in Norway on scatter diagrams – with resource on the X- and service on the Y-axis.
The data show that the service indicator (Loans + Visits) per capita (which is used in Finland) combined with the resource indicatator (Wages + Media budget) per capita (which is used in Norway), give a clearer picture of the relationship between input and output than the more widely used Loans per Person year.
The diagrams are more linear and the correlations substantially higher.
This quantitative approach is similar to current research based on intensive use of statistics – for instance the work of Christie Koontzin Florida, of Thierry Giappiconi (Fresnes, France), the German library index BIX (Ulla Wimmer), British social impact studies (promoted by MLA) and other studies from LISU in Great Britain.