A National Survey of the Perceived Monetary Value of Public Library Service for Norwegians: Contingent Valuation Approach Reveals a 1:4 Cost-Benefit Ratio

Steph Hall

Abstract


Objective – To determine the perceived monetary value of public library service to Norwegians (both library users and non-users).

Design – Four sets of 2 questions were included in a bi-monthly omnibus telephone survey conducted by a private agency.

Setting – Norway.

Subjects – A representative sample of Norwegian citizens (999 respondents). The mode of selection used for the survey is described by Aabø as follows:

(1) municipalities were randomly drawn from clusters based on economic and industrial structure, demographic structure and geography; (2) starting addresses in the municipalities were randomly pulled from the national telephone directory database; and (3) the individual to be interviewed as representative of the household was the person above 15 years of age with the most recent birthday. (491)

Method – The contingent valuation method was used, with questions assessing both willingness to pay (WTP) and willingness to accept compensation for loss of the service (WTA). Four sets of 2 valuation questions were asked via telephone. The second question was an open-ended question with “principally the same wording” in each set (492). The first question was worded differently in each set, with two of the sets assessing WTP and two assessing WTA. The questions were framed in the context of a “pressed economic situation where the local politicians discussed reallocation of the funding of several public services, including the public library” (492).

Main results – Three major findings were reported:

1. The average value placed on library service by the sub samples varied between 400-2000 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) per household. This can be compared to the actual amount paid for library service – 420 NOK per household. In general, the lower bound (400 NOK) reflects the WTP scenario, while the upper bound (2000 NOK) reflects the WTA scenario.
2. 94% of the Norwegian population perceives that they have property rights to their local library.
3. Because of the strong sense of rights with regard to libraries, a stronger weighting was given to the WTA scenario, with a final cost-benefit ratio reported as 1:4.

Conclusions – The 1:4 cost-benefit ratio provides a rationale for continued government funding of the public library in Norway as a cost-effective and much-valued service at the national level. Because funding of public libraries also comes from local government sources, the author recommends further cost-benefit research at the municipal level (494).

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