INTRODUCTION: Health Libraries Inc (based in Victoria) and Health Libraries Australia (a national group of the Australian Library and Information Association) have collaborated to carry out this investigation into the return on investment of health library and information services in Australia.
The partners commissioned award-winning firm SGS Economics and Planning to survey health libraries across the nation and from this to assess the return on the annual investment in these services to their organisations. The survey took place between June and September 2013, and was supplemented by in-depth case studies.
The indicative result from this work is that health libraries have been found to return $9 for every $1 invested — and that’s a conservative estimate of their real contribution. For example, it takes into account the time saved by medical practitioners in searching for answers, but it does not take into account the improved quality of the results supplied by trained information specialists. It looks at how much it would cost users to have to buy the information they gain for free from the library, but it does not assess the savings achieved by library staff negotiating advantageous prices with information suppliers.
The results provide a snapshot of the continued outstanding value of health libraries against a backdrop of significantly greater usage but declining investment. Over the last three years, the majority of health libraries have remained static or experienced a decrease in their print/e-resources budget, staff hours and space.
The purpose of this report is to assist library and information professionals to present the business case for health libraries within their organisation. By doing so, we hope health libraries will be able to maintain their excellent service to medical practitioners; a service which impacts directly on positive health outcomes for patients.