The Value of Libraries

Value of Public Libraries

-Kate-Lee Nolin

It is a simple but powerful fact.  The investments made to support public libraries deliver impressive returns. And not just for those people who use them.

Total economic impact is based on direct and indirect benefits

Direct spending – Represents the money allocated to the library and then spent for operations, capital, materials, wages and other expenses.

Direct tangible benefits – Are library services that can be measured by a market value. This would include: collection use, programming, technology access, meeting space, and reference and database services.

Indirect tangible benefits – Re-spending by those who are paid by the direct spending within the community’s economy. For example: we might pay a contractor who is working on a branch renovation – they will likely re-spend that money in the community and so on.

Intangible Benefits - Opportunities for library users to improve literacy, educational, employment skills, & quality of life.

What is the actual economic value of a public library?

Toronto Public Library Economic Impact Study:

Patrons are saving money every day by using the public library.  An online Library Value Calculator has been created that estimates monthly and annual personal savings as a result of using the public library.

Example: A Southeast library user signs out 2 adult hardcover books, 4 children’s books, 2 paperbacks, and 4 DVDs per month.

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Libraries are a worthwhile public investment

In 2013, the Vancouver Public Library surveyed 1,001 Vancouver residents and asked questions about their willingness to pay taxes for library services and alternatives for the types of services libraries provide.

  • 96% support spending tax dollars to continue library services even if they don’t use the library themselves.  Why?  Because of the benefits the library provides to the community.
  • 78% of those surveyed had visited the library in the last year. This placed the library at the top of the most popular and most accessible community organizations in Vancouver.
  • 94% of people agreed that support for the library is fundamental.

The community’s benefits of library use are considerable and compelling.  Our ability to expand our world view and to expand our potential requires an investment in lifelong learning, access to information and digital literacy skills. The public library provides the essential components of space, technology, collections and staff expertise.  We all do better as a community when everyone has access to information and resources – not just those who can afford to have them.  It’s an investment in us and in future generations.  Public libraries are clearly an investment worth making.

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