Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  work in progress

Cost Benefit Analysis: Support Sustainable Development Goals

Did you ever wonder what the “sustainable” part of “sustainable development” mean? According to IFLA’s Libraries and the Sustainable Development Goals, it is a “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It’s about the environment, but also about social and economic development.

We support the 17 SDGs or UN 2030 Agenda. Libraries provide services that world leaders care about. The inclusion of libraries and access to information in national and regional development plans will contribute to meeting the global United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Libraries contribute to improved outcomes across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • Promoting universal literacy, including digital literacy/skills, with the support of dedicated staff
  • Closing gaps to access information — helping government, society and business understand local needs
  • Providing a network of delivery sites for government programs and services
  • Advancing digital inclusion
  • Serving as the heart of the research and academic community
  • Preserving and providing access to the world’s culture and heritage

Benefits, as opposed to costs, must always be proven.

All good stories need a plot. If you are aiming to build support, then you should develop a library master plan that uncovers the cost benefits. The key to the long life of a master plan is the budget parameters that are used as constants against which monies for the projects are measured. Cost benefit analysis is one accounting method for ensuring the funds are sustainable. It has become very popular in recent years.

Cost benefit analysis

Developing sustainable goals will require you to analyze the following:

1. Initial costs
2. Maintenance costs
3. Direct costs
4. Indirect costs
5. Sustainable library development

Initial costs

The initial costs are associated with the planning and implementation period. Usually, our work is intense at this stage. We help analyze the user needs, scenarios for programming and conceptual designs to support the project. We work with the library community to determine the pro’s and con’s for each plan. This includes: potential revenue increases, displacement savings, growth avoidance, and equivalent service benefit.

Maintenance costs

The maintenance costs are associated with managing any piece of equipment, services, software, hardware or space. You must maintain the library for a continuous period of time. Our master plans include a view of twenty years. We provide a roadmap to follow and update. We will help your team determine the capacity benefits associated with the new ability to increase services.

Direct costs

Direct costs include new outlays for a project. This can be physical upgrades or technology that provides a service. For example, library buildings cost a lot of money to keep up to date. When we analyze the direct cost for a project, we try to understand the long term return on investment.

Indirect costs

Indirect costs include internal resources that are not considered part of the general overhead and that do not directly affect operating budget, but that are modified by the project. Often these indirect costs can make a long term impact on the sustainability of the library, museum or organization.

Sustainable library development

Sustainable library development provides intangible benefits that cannot be expressed in dollars and for that reason are the hardest to prove, but they also tend to be among the most important. They include training/education, staffing levels, public image, community leadership and the quality of the library building and electronic service. Our research has found that:

    Intangible benefits are difficult to quantify.
    They possess intrinsic value and are often the unknowns that distinguish a well-managed library from a poorly managed one.
    Revenue increases due to service upgrades, displacement savings, and growth avoidance are usually reflected in operating budgets.
    Capacity benefits and equivalent service benefits are indicators of the long term effectiveness of a management plan. They tend to the most political and the first to be discarded when making up the budget.

A creative planning process is required

We provide a process that uncovers the libraries priorities. As a result, we address the tangible and intangible benefits of the library. When we start our work, the first set of workshops include present value discussions and a risk analysis that focuses on the future. We look at existing conditions and future needs. We often adjust future costs/benefits to the present value for comparison. We assess the riskiness of a project as it is defined. We analyze the likely variability of future returns from the project.