Library financial X-ray

A benchmarked overview of library costs across a range of library services – to help you make practical, evidence-based decisions.

The library has a pivotal role to play in education and research. So it’s vital to be able to make maximum use of your resources across the many services you deliver.

This can be challenging. First, it can be difficult to get a clear overview of where staff resource is being deployed, and how much staff time this amounts to.

Second, it’s difficult to know if you’re over- or under- resourcing some areas of library service – whether at the expense of other areas, or as viewed against your peers.

That can make it hard to make practical decisions. So to address these issues – and in response to a stated need ­­– we have developed a library financial X-ray service, designed in collaboration with pilot organisations in higher education.

This service is delivered by a Jisc consultant – and includes both analysis and face-to-face support (in person or via Teams), to help you decide how to allocate staff time and expenditure for the benefit of library users.

How does this service help my organisation?

The library financial X-ray gives you a transparent view of how you are deploying library resources – with peer benchmarking included – to help you make best use of these resources, spot gaps, and improve the library experience for students and researchers.

Using the service, you can:

Get a clear, structured overview of library activity levels and cost

To allocate resources successfully, you need clarity above all else. So in this service, we break down and analyse your library spend across 28 sector-specific service areas, defined in collaboration with pilot organisations. We then present the results in a clear, comprehensive report.

As well as including direct spend on systems, facilities, equipment and material, the service also captures your staff time, using ‘activity-based costing’ to enable staff effort to be measured accurately.

We then calculate a total cost for each area of the library, divided into staff and non-staff costs – in total, and on a ‘per beneficiary’ basis – so you can understand your profile and draw meaningful conclusions.

Benchmark your spending against peers

As well as collecting and analysing your costs, we help you put the results in context. So as part of your report, we present how your key performance indicators (KPIs) – such as your cost per beneficiary – compare to benchmark data from peer organisations; and we also include commentary to help explain any variance.

This benchmarking process helps you to work out whether you’re under-resourcing or over-resourcing certain areas, compared to other organisations – and decide whether this is appropriate or not.

Talk results through with a Jisc consultant

To help you interpret our findings and observations, a Jisc consultant will present your library X-ray results in person or via Teams – giving you the chance to discuss your spend profile, and how you might adapt this to improve efficiency, service levels and satisfaction.

Make practical, evidence-based decisions

Armed with your data, benchmarking and Jisc support, you should be able to use this service to make practical, evidence-based decisions, suited to your needs and resources.

You may also be able to use the results to support the business case for change, and when bidding for additional budget.

How does the service work in practice?

As part of this service we would:

  • Work with you to agree a scope
    Before starting this service, we would work with you to define the scope, which helps to plan meetings and information-gathering.
  • Spend time with library staff
    To deliver the service, we’d need about an hour each with library team leaders and managers, typically spread over a few days. Of course, for the service to work effectively, it’s important to put staff at their ease first – so we’d also work with you to help ensure staff understand what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Capture financial data
    We’d need to work with you to capture the costs you’ve incurred in the latest year with key suppliers – in areas from licences to facilities to IT. To assist with benchmarking and calculating relevant KPIs, we’d also ask you for some data from your latest submission to the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL).
  • Present our findings
    A Jisc consultant will create a clear, comprehensive report, including benchmarking data ­­– and present it to you in person or via a Teams meeting. The library financial X-ray is available as an additional service, over and above the cost of your Jisc membership.

Find out more

To find out more about this or any other Jisc service, please contact your relationship manager. Alternatively, email