Library Service Capital: The Case for Measuring and Managing Intangible Assets

Sheila Corrall


Introduction. Libraries are continually evolving their services and assessment methods, but need a new lens to understand their position. Library assessment has evolved from operational statistics to strategic management systems using quantitative and qualitative methods from business and social research, Literature suggests intellectual capital theory could assist libraries to develop new, improved measures of performance and value for the network world, particularly for staff capability and relationship management, as a gap in current systems.

Purpose. The study investigates intangible assets that academic libraries are exploiting to compete in the digital age and  methods that libraries can use to assess intangible assets.

Theoretical framework. We use two paradigms: the resource-based view that recognizes organizational assets as strategic resources whose value, durability, rarity, inimitability, and non-substitutability represent competitive advantage; and the intellectual capital perspective, which regards human, structural, and customer/relational capital as long-term investments enabling value creation for stakeholders, similar to other capital assets.

Methods. The study re-used data from prior survey and case study research, supplemented by evidence from the literature. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s  categorization of intellectual assets was chosen as an analytical framework.

Results. Academic libraries have developed significant human, structural, and relational assets that are enabling them to respond to environmental challenges.

Conclusions. An intellectual capital lens can enable libraries to recognize their intangible assets as distinctive competencies with current relevance and enduring value. Libraries need to extend  their assessment systems to evaluate their human, structural, and relational assets.



Keywords: intangible assets, intellectual capital, library assessment, performance measurement.



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