Identifying the Public Value a Unique Public Service

Here is how you can create your own unique public value statement if none of the examples listed work for you.

An Example for One Library Service: Early Reading Programs

The first graphic shows this for a library’s early reading program for pre-school children.

Public Value Message Graphic: Early Reading Programs

Starting at the top with a specific program (pre-school children go to the library’s early-ready programs). As a result, they learn to love reading and books, leading to greater success in K-12, resulting in improved success in higher education and better future earnings. Also, their greater success in K-12 reduces the cost of their K-12 education and hence reduces taxes for schools or allows the funds to be used on other important needs, holding down costs to taxpayers.

Taxpayer Stakeholders Interested in Return on Investment: The yellow box assumes that the non-patrons stakeholders are taxpayers who are primarily concerned about how an “investment” in the library benefits them – not the children in this program. This reflects economists’ assumptions that people are willing to pay taxes if it is in their own “enlightened self-interest” but not because it benefits others.
There is support for this view in the report “From Awareness to Funding” finds that support for libraries is moving away from altruism for others toward return in investment. “Library funding support is not based on a vague sense of altruism, but based on a real economic return for individuals, families, and communities.” (From Awareness to Funding, Chapter 6, page 6-12 From Awareness to Funding: A study of library … – OCLC )

Altruism for Others: If there is a shift from altruism to a strict return on investment (ROI) philosophy, this is a sad trend. Yet, even within philanthropy, there is a movement toward “effective altruism.” Effective altruism is focused on whether the funds actually deliver the results to the direct beneficiaries of the program as promised. The graphic above is exactly the same except that the stakeholders making the investment expect very little or no ROI for themselves.

How does Public Value Message Change for Altruistic Donors? Two possible changes are possible. One is to simply omit the part in yellow. The second is to have the part in yellow focus on the community rather than the individual’s taxes. For example, it might end with: “Also, their greater success in K-12, results in them become more productive citizens and benefitting their community as adults.” Or “Also, their great success in K-12 results in lower costs for education so that the town can put a little more into “X” (low-income housing, drug rehabilitation, programs for seniors, environmental programs, etc.).

Generic Public Value Message Graphic

The next graphic can be used to develop your own unique public value statement, based on programs or services that your library has, specific patrons it serves and specific non-patrons.

Here’s some key points in using the graphic:

  1. In box 1, focus on only one service or program for each public value statement. Potentially you can have at least one public value statement for each program or service you have that not only benefits patrons but that makes a transformational change in their life.
  2. Also in box 1, focus on only one type of patron if it is a service that reaches several types of library users. While both are extremely important, there are differences in the public value message between literacy programs of pre-schools and literacy programs for immigrants learning English.
  3. In box 2, describe how the program changed their KASA or helped them in some way.
  4. In box 3, describe how the change in KASA leads to some change in behavior or positive outcome.
  5. In the bottom blue box, outline the Private Value, the value to the library patron from participating in this specific service
  6. In the bottom yellow box, think first about which of several potential stakeholders the public value statement will include. For example, in the example above on early reading programs, the non=participants were local taxpayers. Other potential non-participants who can receive public value from early reading programs are employers who need a well-educated workforce, citizens who want well-educated professionals, and citizens who want a well-educated populace for both cultural and civic engagement reasons.
  7. Generic Public Value Message GraphicIn the bottom yellow box, outline how the ONE TYPE OF STAKEHOLDER which you select will benefit indirectly from either the changes described in box 3 or the bottom blue box. The difference in using box 3 and the bottom blue box often relates to the time period being considered. For example, in the early-reading program, the immediate effect is a saving in K-12 costs of educating a child who reads well versus one that struggles. In the long-run, children that do better in higher education and earn higher incomes contribute more to local, state and federal taxes, reducing burdens for taxpayers and adding to social security, holding constant other factors.