Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report results of a research project which investigated how two UK National libraries categorise their core business purpose together with an assessment of the role and relevance of additional (or value-added) services in their strategic thinking, future planning and performance measurement.
Design/methodology/approach – This is a qualitative interpretive study, using a collective case study methodology, with the National Libraries of Wales and Scotland as the core cases. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior managers in both institutions, together with focus groups with librarians and library assistants, selected using purposive sampling. All instruments were piloted; data from the respondents were recorded, coded, classified and cross-checked to ensure validity and rigour, using themed interview schedules to facilitate analysis.
Findings – It is difficult to be definitive as to core and additional services as individuals have differing interpretations of the terms. Changing customer demands and expectations, technological developments and the impact of a dynamic and complex economic environment suggest it is more meaningful to reconceptualise services according to the extent to which they contribute to achieving basic business purpose at any one time.
Originality/value – Libraries must demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness in service provision, and in relation to achieving primary purpose and resource priorities in order to survive. Examining the relevance of defining and distinguishing core and added-value services in relation to performance assessment and strategic vision addresses a gap in existing knowledge.