The value of academic libraries in the developing world

New report explores the value of academic libraries to teaching and research faculty.

Libraries must go beyond content provision and focus on usage and awareness

Increased awareness of the services offered by the academic library can help raise its profile amongst teaching and research staff – an important element of demonstrating library value.  Ongoing marketing and promotion of the library and its services is critical if institutions are to achieve best possible value from library services.

Sage has just published the results of a six month project in 12 case study universities in developing (low and middle income economies) countries (Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Senegal, Uganda, Ukraine and Zimbabwe).  Participating libraries received access to SAGE products.  Some also received additional support in marketing these products within their organisations.  Surveys were then conducted of librarians and faculty and followed up by telephone interviews, email questions and analysis of usage data.

The report (Library value in the developing world) follows on from last year’s report (Working Together) which explored similar issues in Scandinavia, the UK and the US.

How is value being measured?

  • Two thirds of the featured libraries are basing their value measures on usage of the resources
  • However, five of the 12 libraries are beginning to explore other value measures, including gathering of testimonials, faculty questionnaires and monitoring traffic to the library website.

Perception of value of services and resources – Faculty

Almost 300 responses from faculty were received. 

  • 96% of faculty use the library building
  • 15% of faculty visit the library every day
  • 39% visit the library website at least once a week
  • 70% placed the highest value on the library resources – in particular online availability


  • 35% said they weren’t aware of all the services offered by the library
  • 55% criticised the physical space
  • 27% never use the online catalogue (often as a result of ICT issues)

Promoting library services

If faculty (and students) are to appreciate the value of resources, they need to know they exist and to appreciate their scholarly value.  .  The responding librarians acknowledged this and identified a number of activities that could help raise the profile of the library, including more publicity and outreach activities, improved access and more user training.  The report finds some disconnect between what librarians think is effective in communicating to faculty, and faculty’s own perceptions.  In particular faculty placed more importance on departmental library liaison representatives, individual communications and visits, and library reports.


  • Active marketing leads to improved networking and communication
  • Librarians need to develop skills in capturing and reporting usage data
  • Libraries need to build strong internal relationships especially with senior management
  • Libraries should participate in research projects
  • Communication channels between libraries and faculty need to be improved or made more transparent

The report, which also includes examples of good practice in research support, information literacy and collection evaluation, is available from Sage.

Card catalogue image from dfulmer via Flickr.