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I thought I’d cover two quite different things in this blog post but thinking about them there is actually a connection between them in that they are both elements of how users value academic libraries and how that can be seen and measured.    One of them was a library seminar presented by Carol Tenopir from the University of Tennessee talking about measuring library outcomes and value.  The other, Huddersfield’s new Lemon Tree library learning game, where users get points for carrying out library activities.

Lemon Tree
This is a new game just launched by Huddersfield at  Created by developers Running in the Halls the library game gives users points for carrying out activities in the library and using library resources.  In their words:

‘You get points for doing all sorts of things in and around the library like; visiting it, borrowing items, doing things at specific hours, returning items in certain combinations and much more…’Screenshot of Lemon Tree website at Huddersfield

There’s also a project blog here with some useful technical details about how the system has been setup.  The game lets users login with a facebook login, something that will be really familar to students, and the site itself has the modern, informal look that is a world away from the usual formal, stuffy academic library sites.

It will be interesting to see how the game takes off with users.  Huddersfield’s LIDP work seems to have established a connection between library use and student achievement, so it will be really fascinating to see how Lemon Tree might encourage more student use of the library and how it may affect student behaviour.

Whether something like this would work in every academic environment is something I’d wonder.  It might appeal more to students who are particularly engaged with social networking.  With students becoming ever more focussed on doing what they need to do to get the best out of their investment then they might want to know what they get in return for playing the game.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about Lemon Tree.

Carol Tenopir library seminar on the value of academic libraries
It’s always useful to hear about ways of measuring the value of libraries in ways that go beyond usage statistics.  So it was really good to hear Carol Tenopir talking about some of the work to come out of her recent projects and particularly from the Lib-Value project.

Carol Tenopir is a Chancellor’s Professor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the Director of Research for the College of Communication and Information, and Director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies.

Ranging from Fritz Machlup’s definitions of value in terms of purchase or exchange value (what you are willing to pay) and use value (described as ‘favourable consequences derived from reading and using information’) through Economic, Social and Environmental values as used by Bruce Kingma and on to Implicit values (usage), Explicit values (outcomes) and Derived values (Return on Investment) we had a thorough introduction to some of work that is going on in this area.

What was particularly useful was to hear about the Critical Incident technique used in reading and scholarship surveys.  In this case academics are asked in detail about the last article they read (the ‘Critical Incident’).  These surveys have shown that the majority of the articles are being supplied by the library, but not read in the library.  Over half of the academics surveyed said that the outcome of reading the article was ‘New thinking’.

Carol also talked about Return on Investment and particularly contingent valuation, an economic model that tries to calcluate how much it would cost to do the things the library does, if you had to do them yourself.  So instead of the library buiying a subscription to that electronic journal, how much would it cost you on a pay-per-view basis.  It was particularly useful to find out about the National Network of Libraries of Medicine value calculator (and here).

All-in-all a really good hour with lots of useful techniques and information about different ways of thinking about the value of academic libraries. (A video of this seminar is now available here).  For me, what is interesting about these two items is that both covered value as being expressed directly by what users say (the critical incident) or what they do (the Lemon Tree library activities).

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January 2021

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