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Efficiency in the provision of public services: a data envelopment analysis of UK public library systems

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This study assesses the relative efficiency of public library services by examining the relationship between library inputs and library outputs in multi-outlet library systems. Differences in the size of the area and population served are reflected in differences in the number of outlets and mix of outlet types. Using a Data Envelopment Analysis, which controls for the accessibility of library resources, this study derives technical and overall efficiency scores for 99 UK Public Library Systems. The data are survey observations for 1995/1996. Over the decade leading up to the survey, library services had been subject to a protracted period of budget restraint and contraction in most areas of activity. The distribution of efficiency scores is skewed, implying that although many library systems are efficient or near-efficient, there is a tail of inefficient operations. Inefficiency is mainly, but not exclusively associated with over subscription to serial publications. Many library systems are scale inefficient, operating under conditions of increasing returns to scale. Reorganization of the service may be required if greater efficiency is to be achieved.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-03-20

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