Valuing Northern Libraries Toolkit

Click here to view the “Valuing Northern Libraries Tool Kit”

“Is your library board looking for a new way to communicate library value to your stakeholders?

Valuing Northern Libraries Toolkit

Ontario Library Service – North (OLS – North) contracted NORDIK Institute to create a measurement tool to illustrate the value of libraries in rural, Northern, First Nation, and francophone communities. A steering committee consisting of the CEOs of the six pilot communities participated in identifying the measurement topics, the design and testing of the tool.

The Toolkit and Resources

This tool is designed to measure the value of public libraries and their role as community hubs, building capacity for healthy, resilient people and places, especially in rural, Northern, First Nation and francophone communities. The toolkit provides a step-by-step process to assess libraries’ social return on investment (SROI) within a holistic, cross-sectoral framework. The Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a term describing the social impact of a business or non-profit’s operations in dollar terms, relative to the investment required to create that impact and exclusive of its financial return to investors.

Based on a review of relevant literature, focus groups, consultation with steering committee members and site visits, NORDIK designed a measurement toolkit to encompass the many diverse and unique roles that public libraries play in the North as community hubs.

This framework identifies seven areas where libraries contribute to building individual, organizational, and community level capacity.

  1. Cultural Integrity & Regional Identity
  2. Social Inclusion
  3. Cognitive & Literacy Development
  4. Health & Wellness
  5. Engaged Citizens & Safer Communities
  6. Entertainment & Enjoyment
  7. Economic Development

An indicator is a quantifiable measure used to monitor progress or impact in a given area or sector. In collaboration with the pilot sites, three indicators were chosen that best reflect how libraries’ operations and expenditures contribute to each respective area. The same number of indicators is measured in each of the seven sectors for the purpose of demonstrating the equivalent value of each sector in the overall economic benefit and calculation of its Social Return on Investment.

While many of the services and activities of the libraries could arguably demonstrate benefits in multiple sectors assessed by the measurement tool, this study has relied on the preferences of the pilot sites to identify the placement of indicators most appropriate to each of the seven sectors. The indicators have been selected based on data that is collected by all libraries, or alternatively, can be easily collected during the ‘typical week’ usage survey.

Each library builds a unique mix of resources—collections, programming, services, etc. in response to community needs, enabling diverse people to improve their quality of life and to participate in the life of the community in meaningful ways. In many instances, libraries demonstrate leadership by promoting services that are otherwise non-existent, under developed or under serviced. The library value toolkit can be used in all of Ontario’s small and rural communities to demonstrate how the library contributes to individual, organizational, and community capacity.

SROI Indicator Template (the library value calculation spreadsheet)

The SROI Indicator Template will require some of the data submitted for the 2017 Annual Survey of Public Libraries, the Typical Week Survey, plus other commonly collected information.

Download the template and sample reports:

Training Resources

COMING SOON – The Valuing Northern Libraries Toolkit online course will be made available on LearnHQ for Ontario public libraries to access.

Other Library Value Projects

Here is a sampling of public library value projects conducted in the past decade:

Assessing the ECONOMIC IMPACT of Vancouver Island Regional Library on our Member Communities, 2016.

Building Burlington’s Prosperity: The Economic Impact of Burlington Public Library, 2015.

Ottawa Public Library Impact Report. 2015.

SSM Public Library Research Report: The Value of Sault Ste. Marie’s Public Library 2015

Kawartha Lakes Public Library Economic Impact Study 2014

So Much More: The Economic Impact of the Toronto Public Library on the City of Toronto 2014

Halifax Central Library An Economic Impact Assessment 2009

Enriching communities: The value of public libraries in NSW 2008


Steering Committee


Dayna DeBenedet,

Dryden Public Library


Crystal Alcock,

Kenora Public Library


Marie Rosset,

Powassan and District Union Public Library


Michael Dawber,

Rainy River Public Library


Rebecca Hunt,

Temiskaming Shores Public Library


Sheri Mishibinijima,

Wikwemikong First Nation Public Library


For more information, please contact:

Skills Development

800-461-6348 ext. 505″