Cover: The Simple Theory of Public Library Services.

The Simple Theory of Public Library Services.

by Joseph P. Newhouse


Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback14 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

A method for deciding which books a library should buy, assuming it can predict demand. The method also applies to other public services where the user could buy similar services on the open market, and assumes that the benefit from the public service can be approximately measured by the cost of the private good. The formula considers both borrowers who would otherwise buy the book, and those excluded by the price. The decision rule results in encouraging the purchase of expensive, frequently requested books. However, it is reasonable to set distributional constraints to ensure that all the book budget is not spent on one type of book. Charging a book reservation fee ensures that those who want the book most get it first. Fines for late return should vary with demand. The probability of paperback publication complicates the determination of a book's value; the theory of discriminating monopoly rather than simple monopoly comes into play. 14 pp. (MW)

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.