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Economic Impact of Public Libraries

The following are links to various studies designed to measure the economic impact or taxpayer return-on-investment for public libraries, as well as resources for conducting local studies.

The Economic Contribution of Wisconsin Public Libraries to the Economy of Wisconsin

This study was conducted by NorthStar Economics, Inc. of Madison, WI, from October, 2007 to April, 2008 to determine the economic impact and taxpayer return-on-investment of Wisconsin's 388 public libraries. The Executive Summary is available as a nine-page document.

Also available is a PDF-format slide presentation presented by David Ward, President of NorthStar Economics as keynote address to the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries on May 1, 2008.

Statewide Studies

When the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) completed its recent 14-year Branch Library Improvement Program (BLIP), the city controller’s office released an impact study detailing the economic benefits and returns on investment (ROI) that the program stimulated throughout the city. September 2015.

Instead of conducting a single return on investment study for the state's public libraries, Colorado's project "Public Libraries - A Wise Investment" instead conducted eight studies of representative library districts throughout the state in 2006 and produced eight separate reports. The site also includes a ROI calculator for other libraries to use. Libraries were to initially to select one of the eight library studies for a calculation applying derived formulas.

A subsequent final report suggests the median of the eight results ($4.99) as a statewide figure. The study provides a good comparison of the various state and regional studies as well as an explanation and contrast of Contingent Valuation method to the Market Valuation method of conducting studies.

The Indiana State Library commissioned the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business to produce The Economic Impact of Libraries in Indiana. "In contrast to most other studies that have attempted to measure the economic impact of public libraries, this study also focused on the role that public libraries play in supporting business and economic development in their communities." They also provide an Excel-based Library Valuation Calculator.

South Carolina
The Economic Impact of Public Libraries on South Carolina , a study prepared for the University of South Carolina by Daniel D. Barron, Robert V. Williams, Stephen Bajjaly, Jennifer Arns, Steven Wilson of The School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina, January 2005. Links to full report, executive summary, and brochure:

Texas Public Libraries: Economic Benefits and Return on Investment, a report prepared for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Bureau of Business Research IC² Institute, The University of Texas at Austin, December 2012.

Regional and Local Studies

Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Expanding Minds, Empowering Individuals, and Enriching Our Community: A Return on Investment Study of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library 2010.

Southwestern Ohio
Value For Money: Southwestern Ohio's Return from Investment in Public Libraries, involved nine libraries serving four counties in the southwest region of Ohio, conducted by Levin, Driscoll & Fleeter of Columbus, Ohio, released November 29, 2006.

Suffolk County, New York
Placing an Economic Value on the Services of Public Libraries in Suffolk County, New York
The Economic Value of the Middle Country Public Library In Suffolk County, New York
reports prepared by Dr. Pearl M. Kamer, Chief Economist Long Island Association, Inc., 2005-06.

Additional information

American Library Association (ALA) resources at the ALA Return on investment (ROI) page

Olson, Chris. What's in it for them? Communicating the Value of Information Services . Information Outlook, November 2002, pp. 19-23.

Urban Libraries Council: Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development shows the specific ways local governments, agencies, and libraries are key to building the local economic base. Released January 11, 2007.