Correlation found between investment in university libraries and grant awards

August 9, 2010

Elsevier, a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and solutions, today announced the results of a new international study that demonstrates the value of the academic library to the institution in improving grant proposal and report writing and in helping researchers attract grant income. Of the 8 institutions participating from around the globe, 6 demonstrated a greater than one-to-one (1:1) return in grant funding, with results ranging from 15.54:1 to 0.64:1. Equally significant is the result that 2 institutions showed a significant positive correlation between an increase in library investment over time and an increase in grant funding to the university.

Dr. Carol Tenopir, Director of the Center for Information and at the University of Tennessee, led a team of investigators over a 16-month period. "Libraries bring value and returns on institutional investments in many ways," explains Dr. Tenopir. "Although the exact monetary amount of the returns in grants varies with the mission of the institution, our research shows that the collections and services of all university libraries help faculty write better grant proposals and articles and help them do better research."

The results of the study, funded by Elsevier, are available through a newly published Elsevier Connect white paper, University Investment in the Library, Phase II: An International Study of the Library's Value to the Grants Process.

"The results reinforce the contribution of libraries and information to the research enterprise," notes Chrysanne Lowe, Elsevier's Vice President of Customer Development and Engagement. "Universities have always known this, but it's useful to see value articulated in terms of grant income ROI as well."

Phased Research Approach

A first phase of the study was conducted as a pilot with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008. In the pilot, a model for calculating a return-on-investment, or ROI, ratio was developed. Phase 2 (results announced today) replicated and then refined the original model. The research team found that among the participants the ROI return varies according to the goals of the institution, the funding environment of the institution's country, and the availability of data provided by the institution.

Dr. Tenopir and Paula Kaufman, Dean of Libraries at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are currently leading a team on a third study phase -- a 3 year project to expand on this research to include other aspects of ROI. This third study phase is being funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services ("Lib-Value," grant number LG-06-09-0152-09).

"Return on investment in the grants process is one important and convenient way to quantify the value of the academic library, but it underestimates the total value of the library to the university," says Dr. Tenopir.

This next phase of the research will look at ways to measure the value, outcomes, and ROI for the full range of library products and services to a variety of stakeholders. The library's contributions to functional areas of teaching and learning, research, and socialization will be identified and presented as a series of tools, reports, and literature reviews which university administrators and library leaders alike will find of value.

Explore further: Briefs: Library of Congress starts digital library

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