What is a Library Cost Analysis Study?
Library costs are often overlooked—or not taken full advantage of—due to insufficient data when educational institutions are developing F&A cost proposals for indirect cost recovery. The 2 CFR 200 Uniform Guidance Cost Principles for Institutions of Higher Education allows institutions to allocate library expenses based on usage. A Library Cost Analysis Study can help institutions assign library expenses to a purpose of use so that expenses used for funded research, instruction, patient care, or other institutional uses can be identified and counted to help increase institutions’ indirect cost rate. At Attain Partners, our proven method of study includes assigning cost centers, collecting user data through library user surveys, and compiling cost allocations based on actual use.
Attain Partners’ Approach to Library Cost Analysis Studies
Attain Partners uses a proven methodology in our Library Cost Analysis Studies that has remained unchanged since 1982. Our methodology delivers consistent results to universities seeking to improve their F&A rates and maintains the higher rates by continuing to perform the studies for subsequent F&A proposals. We have performed these studies over 130 times across more than 40 university libraries as our clients have seen the benefit of using our methodology in each cycle.
Our Library Cost Analysis Study has four major components:
Library User Surveys
Our Library User Surveys are used to measure the purpose and actual use of all library materials, resources, and services. Each survey is designed to fit the population of the university and reflect the resources available at each library. The surveys are distributed over a 12-month period using the random sampling method in which there is a 2-hour survey period each month in each library participating. We also use a web intercept survey to capture library users coming through the website traffic during a 2-hour period each month. The surveys focus on what library resources are used and whether they were used for the purpose of funded research, instruction, patient care, or other sponsored activities. The library user surveys are critical in collecting actual use data to use in our cost analysis study.
We then perform a comprehensive cost analysis. This includes collecting salary, facilities, and material expenses. We group the library expenses into direct cost categories such as personnel, books, journals, electronic services, and other expenses. From there, we assign direct cost categories to specific libraries and library cost centers such as reference services, rare books and manuscripts, circulation, electronic services, and other expenses. We compile these indirect library expenses and assign them on the basis of square feet and Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) to specific libraries and library cost centers. Finally, we combine the direct and indirect library expenses for each cost center and assign applicable credits.
Assign and Determine Library Expenses
By combining the Library User Survey data with the Cost Analysis data, we are able to assign specific library expenses to the appropriate cost centers. This allows us to determine the total library expenses by the purpose of use, a much more detailed and accurate report of the percentage of resources used for funded research than the standard FTE allocation method.
The Impact of a Library Cost Analysis Study
Over the course of conducting these studies for the past 40 years, our methodology has on average raised the library’s portion of the F&A rate proposal by 1.2 points. These additional points potentially equal $1.2 million/year recovery gain on a $100 million base. Through our proven methodology, university libraries gain insights into how their resources, materials, and services are being used, which means we not only help improve F&A proposal rates but also provide clear data that can be used when managing future financial planning. For example, we have found that while interlibrary loan use and online journals are the two most heavily used traditional library services proportionally by sponsored researchers, use varies significantly between different types of libraries and campuses. Providing each university library with specific data of resources used for different purposes can assist our clients’ future financial planning decisions.
Our ability to provide reliable data and feedback to our clients is one of the main reasons many of our clients have returned to us for subsequent studies. We pride ourselves on building relationships with our clients, and by continuing to conduct these studies with the same clients—some for over 2 decades—we have maintained their higher rates, consistently earning the university more points for its F&A rate negotiations.
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About the Author
Ms. Blake Norby is a Library Consultant for the Research Enterprise Services practice of Attain Partners. During her time with Attain Partners, Ms. Norby has been involved in multiple library consulting projects with higher education institutions. She has participated in various stages of Facilities & Administrative Expense (F&A) strategic planning, proposal preparation and submission, and space functional usage studies with a focus on library spaces. Ms. Norby brings over 13 years’ experience working in libraries with extensive knowledge of using patron data to create inclusive, accessible library spaces and programs. She is currently a member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), the American Library Association (ALA) including the Public Library Association, and several additional roundtables and special interest groups.