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Logo of mlabJournal informationSubscribeSubmissions on the Publisher web siteCurrent issue of BMLA in PMCAlso see JMLA journal in PMC
Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1980 January; 68(1): 53–57.
PMCID: PMC226414

Random time sampling with self-observation for library cost studies: unit costs of reference questions.


The working time of reference librarians was sampled using random alarm devices and a structured checklist of mutually exclusive categories of reference questions. An average wage rate was applied to the unit time reciprocals derived from the resulting percentages. Wage costs for directional questions averaged $1.98; extended reference queries, $4.57. Random time sampling with self-observation gives acceptable reliability at low cost, minimal interference with service operations, and minimal distortion of collected data due to the collection process. It can be carried out by library managers themselves.

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