Full & preliminary project descriptions used to secure this funding award are available here:
Phase 1 study pre-registration: https://osf.io/2asx8
Libraries in Community Systems is funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as part of the National Leadership Grants to Libraries program (grant record: LG-250030-PLS-21). The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
**We submit that the function of the tribal and public library is to facilitate and produce wellbeing, as defined by the capability to belong, to participate in networks of mutual aid, and to determine one’s own future.**
What is the tribal and public library’s measurable value to their local community?
Our answers will produce the following:
- valuation model of tribal and public library wellbeing production
- economic model incorporating wellbeing valuation
- a valuation calculator for current service provisions
- a returns (cost-effectiveness) calculator for evaluating service change
- foundation research for a more complete model of libraries within their local social, political, and ecological systems.
In the *Journal of Research Practice*, Kim Tallbear exhorted readers and researchers to “soften the
boundary” between the inquirer and those who are “inquired on” or whose “lives, lands, and bodies are inquired
into”. Throughout our project design, we will draw from these theoretical foundations for our methods:
- Hermeneutical phenomenology: lived experience as valuable data and trustworthy source for understanding reality. Widely used in qualitative research, it helps us balance experiences with aggregated quantitative data. True stories are complex and individual experiences complicate what numbers tend to smooth out—helping us inform the data toward more accurate interpretations. Framing of that data should come in partnership with community interpretations.
- Community-based participatory research: partnering with subjects early in the research lifecycle so their guidance is woven into the process. This means that the design is aligned with their lived experience and their values, that participants build capacity to inquire of themselves and speak in their voice of their own data, and that the products are richer, many-voiced, and of practical use.
- Capabilities approach to human development: each person has value to themselves and to the whole, not merely as a data point in a general aggregation; there are core “ways of being and doing”15 one must be capable of achieving in order to live a fully realized life.
The following details each phase of the project’s research and dissemination methods, including data gathering, analysis, and use, as well as its timing, budget requirements, and project roles involved.
**Phase 1:** *Shared Definitions* | 2021-2022 | $103,960 | All Roles Engaged
*Questions answered in this phase:*
What is a public or library within the context of community systems and how is it described?
What is the library’s value and how is it described or currently measured?
*Produced from this phase:*
1. Shared definitions of library, value, community.
2. Insights into what quantitative data is appropriate to use, for which measurements, with community-based contextual framing.
3. Index of library value language for future data mapping.
Building a model for practice begins with shared language, definitions, and understandings. During this phase of work, we will virtually convene a series of facilitated conversations with libraries and their invited community partners. The result of these conversations will be descriptions of the library, its role in the community it serves, and its perceived value within the broader network of community systems.
Upon being awarded the grant, we will meet with our State Library Partners to identify tribal and public libraries within their state to work with the Libraries in Community Systems project as Model Testers. These will be library partners who are interested in understanding, valuing, and quantifying social
wellbeing outcomes from their library service. We will present our plan to the advisory board, including specific steps we will take to virtually convene 16 conversations (1 per state for each rural, suburban, urban, and tribal community). We will use group visuals, diagrams (research method: graphic elicitation16
), and notes to capture language and terms used by participants
as they discuss value, the library, and its role in the community.
Through late fall and early winter, the Facilitator will host these conversations via Zoom with breakout
room note-taking support from Gustina and NNYLN.
These diagrams and notes will be made anonymous during data analysis and shared via an Open Science
Framework (OSF). Analysis using common qualitative coding practices will draw out themes and common
language used to describe community systems, define libraries within those systems, and define value.
Once refined into clear description and definitions, we will reconvene participants for a second
conversation to test these statements against their beliefs, experiences, and understandings.
Draft versions after these conversations will go through our critical readers, and once refined, go to the
advisory board. When finalized, an interactive systems diagram will be added to the project web site, which will
also include information on project designs, purpose, and participants, as well as a way for people to subscribe
to project notifications. The web site will be shared through our state partners, board members, and with
professional associations like ALA, Association of Rural and Small Libraries, REFORMA, and Urban Libraries
To give a shared base on which these new definitions will be built, we share these assumptions which
frame the project design:
- Economics: Study of how we create and exchange value together in the context of built and living environments.
- Life has inherent value: Some calculations included in economic models have high discounting of our future resources (the future isn’t worth much compared to the present), and older age is negatively appreciated (because health is financially costly). We pull from Quality Adjusted Life Year methods developed by health economists to counter these practices. Our calculations will favor life and a life well-lived as quantified in a Wellbeing Adjusted Life Year.
- Social wellbeing: our initial indicators for measurement are in Table 1 [Table in supp. docs]. These will be informed by findings from “Pathways to Wellbeing” which explores the processes by which libraries use belonging, mutualism, and self-determination pathways to support the improvement of these dimensions over time.
- Function of the library: to facilitate and produce wellbeing, as defined by the capability to belong, to participate in networks of mutual aid, and to define and determine one’s own future.
**Phase 2:** *Shared Valuation* | 2021-2023 | $96,710 | All Roles Engaged
*Questions answered in this phase:*
What is the value of public library service for social wellbeing
What is the tribal and public library’s measurable value to their local community? Based on definitions, refine data collection and analysis techniques.
What is valuable?
*Produced from this phase:*
1. Literature review of valuation theory, methods, and indices currently used in education, place-making, public health, and economic disciplines.
2. Based on a refined set of indicators, data will be mapped to value definitions and initial valuation model built.
Economic valuations of public libraries have historically focused on the exchange between the library and the local market economy—incomes and expenditures, cost savings to patrons through resource sharing, and so on—often ignoring non-monetized social goods. We propose, instead, an approach developed in economics which allows for the valuation of non-market services and what the plurality of people in a community values.
Upon being awarded the grant, we will complete the literature review of valuation theory, methods, and indices currently in use within disciplines relevant to this study (see bibliography of key research in Bibliography in supp. docs). This literature review will be examined by critical readers and revised, then
published to the project’s OSF repository, linked on the project website, shared on social media, shared via listservs from the advisory board and state library partners, and sent to library and economics professional associations.
We will also identify the smallest geographic boundary shared by all study communities for key indicator data, like reading proficiency and poverty rates (see Table in supp. docs for our data indicator starting point, based on research previously funded by IMLS). We will gather this data for the most recent year available for all communities and indicators along the identified shared boundary.
Expository analysis will be run as data is gathered according to these boundaries, including mapped layers, both naive and restricted regressions, and data visualizations to better understand the nature of the data we have gathered, as well as to see outliers, patterns, and potential data failures. This will happen throughout the fall and early winter (2021-2022), and again any time we try to include a new data set.
Beginning in February 2022, we will map this data indicator catalog to the shared definitions and values identified in Phase 1. This map will identify both values for which we have not yet
gathered an appropriate data indicator, and data indicators which do not support our understanding of value. We will revisit the literature review for guidance on what data for commonly used wellness indices are used, how to gather and analyze them, and why they are seen to make sense in the context of community or individual capabilities.
This data-to-value map will be shared with our model testers (the 30 libraries we will partner with throughout the project) for a resonance and reality check. Given what we find through the completed literature review, expository analysis, mapping between data and value, and the data available to us, we will present a data cleaning and analysis plan to the advisory board
and faculty advisors for review. After refinement, this plan will be added to our OSF repository as well as shared via our website and social media for interested parties to provide insights and comments.
Detailed quantitative analysis using the data-to-value map will be done on each of the model tester communities. Presumed methods we will use include hedonistic measures to derive willingness to pay valuations (like housing prices or distances traveled by library patrons to attend an event), as well as difference in differences analysis. This would mean looking through place histories and data for potential correlations,
differences, and where exogenous relationships exist between wellbeing indicators and library service interventions. A current research example of this type of study is currently being written on large capital investment in libraries and its causal relationship to improved reading test scores. Difference in differences is the analysis technique widely used to do this where the researcher looks for “shocks” or big changes that could be used to mimic experimental intervention effects.
This information will help us build our initial analytical and predictive models—formulas that help us look at both the relationships between factors, and what shifts in those relationships would mean on a measure of interest. This work will include adapting the established Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY, a unit to value healthy life used by governments and health policy analysts), as well as the nascent Wellbeing Adjusted Life Year (referred to in the literature as the WELBY) to better understand the value of library service to a life well
Individual reports will be shared with the model testers who will be encouraged to share them with their partners and community stakeholders. This is both a resonance check and a check on the story being developed out of the data. Iterating based on responses from our model testers will take place over the late spring and through the summer 2022.
The refined data-to-value map with index for measuring library value will be the foundation for convening discussions with our model testers and people who attended the 2021 conversations on community systems who are willing to participate again. The facilitator will share the data-to-value map and overarching
value schema into which the models will fit. Note takers will gather insights from discussions among each community type: tribal, rural, suburban, and urban.
Insights from these conversations will be used to finalize the data analysis and modeling plan (based on what worked during expository analysis and what we hear from testers and advisors, this includes the specific details of what years, boundaries, and data we will use, how they will be cleaned, and exactly what scripts or formulae we will use on them), service evaluation plan (based in valuation descriptions we heard and the library service data we have available, this will detail what specific value in terms of QALY/WELBY we will ascribe to each service item), and calculator development plan (based on exemplar calculators which exist in health economics, this plan will detail specific inputs libraries will enter themselves, which data assumptions will be built into the calculator, and the formulas which will use these assumptions to produce a valuation unit). All plans will also include a draft of the evaluations model testers will use to judge the usability and truthfulness of the models. These will be presented to the advisory board and economics faculty in winter 2022-2023. Once finalized, the plans will be added to OSF.
From spring through summer 2023 data analysis, model-building, and service evaluation plans will be implemented.
Initial findings will be shared in August 2023 with IMLS, to our list of subscribers, and all our partners. All content of the analysis and data definitions necessary to make informed judgements about, or run replications on, the work will be shared to OSF.
**Phase 3:** *Shared Framework for Practice* | 2023-2024 | $97,460 | All Roles Engaged
*Questions answered in this phase:*
What is a library within a community?
What is the library’s value within the community?
*Produced from this phase:*
1. Community systems schema, to provide context for valuation and calculators, as well as giving support for further work in that area;
2. Program evaluation paradigm relating systems schema and valuation model;
3. Self-guided calculators for library decision-makers to evaluate service, cost, and impact of additional resources;
4. Construction of schemas, models, and paradigms upon which future research should test and build. Calculators and models will be developed into both desktop interactives and online interactives.
Examples of cross-over work we will look to and adapt include County Health Rankings Model from the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation, interview database and self-guided interactive tools from Gustina’s project Rural
Libraries & Social Wellbeing, and project advisor David van der Goes’s calculator for analysis of Community
Health Worker value to townships.
Synthesizing what we have learned to date, we will develop a model which describes community systems and a framework for testing this model in the real world. This model will be tested using two calculators by our 30 library model testers for a total of four months (two two-month intervals) in 2023. Final products will be available as interactive online tools as well as downloadable desktop versions.
We will work with our advisory board to refine the model and calculator evaluation protocols for model testers to use. To develop these calculators, simple cost-effectiveness modeling will be enriched with dynamic modeling methods used in natural resource and labor economics, to build on the analysis from Phase 2. Desktop versions of both calculators will be completed for testing by 2024.
Systemic program and intervention evaluation in organizations will contextualize implementation and use of the model, as well as inform the end calculator production. Examples of ROI calculators exist for complex health outcomes. We will build on these to calculate our weighted and intertwined social wellbeing outcomes, as well as low variance of outcomes across population demographics (equity).
We will convene model testers in a conversation to launch model and calculator testing. This conversation will introduce the testers to the evaluation they will use to judge the truthfulness and effectiveness of the model, the accuracy of the calculators, the practicality of the calculators in terms of things like local availability of necessary data, and finally the usefulness of the results.
Two months of field testing and evaluation will lead to a round of revisions to the desktop versions and
form the basis of the online interactive version, which will be produced in this phase.
Another two months of field testing and evaluation using the online calculators, our research project will
conclude with revisions and a final virtual convening in late July 2024, during which model testers will share
their insights about the interactive models and calculators.
Wherever possible and appropriate, when disseminating these final products we will share the model
testers’ own words and descriptions of the products; every person in libraries has a voice that resonates with
someone else. Our best hope of uptake is to maximize the inclusion of perspectives, descriptions, and voices
describing the concepts and use of the research products.
Calculators will live with the findings and project information online with permanent hosting managed
by the Northern New York Library Network. The project’s 30 testing libraries, project board, and partners will
all be invited to share and train on the calculators built as part of this research. By the time this project is
completed, every product will have been reviewed and tested by dozens of partners across disciplines.
Project participants, researchers, and advisors will be asked to share their experience and the utility of
the research projects along with the final findings and results across their professional networks. Additionally,
they will be encouraged to present on this project from their own perspective.