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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.

Taxpayer Return on Investment in Florida Public Libraries: Summary Report , a study prepared for the State Library and Archives of Florida through the collaborative efforts of Jose-Marie Griffiths (Univ. of Pittsburgh and Univ. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill); Donald W. King and Christinger Tomer (University of Pittsburgh); and Thomas Lynch and Julie Harrington (Florida State University), September 2004.

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.

The Minnesota Library Return on Investment report (December 2011) was made possible with funds from the Arrowhead Library System ROI grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), along with State Library Services, the Minnesota state library agency, under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The report was completed by the University of Minnesota - Duluth, Labovitz School of Business and Economics Bureau of Business and Economic Research under the direction of Jim Skurla.

Taxpayer Return-on-Investment (ROI) in Pennsylvania Public Libraries (September 2006 ), a study prepared for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by The School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina.

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

The Economic Value of Vermont's Public Libraries 2006-2007 , a report prepared by Marianne Kotch, Director Public Library Support Services, State of Vermont Department of Libraries, revised February 2007

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.

Philadelphia, PA
The Economic Value of The Free Library In Philadelphia, a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government to quantify the library's contribution to the regional economy, 2010.

San Francisco, CA
Providing for Knowledge, Growth, and Prosperity: A Benefit Study of the San Francisco Public Library, sponsored by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, 2007.

Saint Louis, MO
Placing a Value on Public Library Services, a study by Glen E. Holt, Donald Elliott, and Amonia Moore to apply economic measurements to value public investment in library services, 1999.

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 regional studies:
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
The Economic Value of the Northport-East Northport Public Library In Suffolk County, New York
reports prepared by Dr. Pearl M. Kamer, Chief Economist Long Island Association, Inc., 2005-06.

Pittsburgh, PA
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Economic Impact Study, a report prepared by the Carnegie Mellon University Heinze College Center for Economic Development for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh through donations from the ALCOA Foundation and Eden Hall Foundation, April 2006.

Wisconsin Surveys:
The Wisconsin Library User (and Non-User): Outcomes of A Statewide Survey, studies conducted in 2003 and 2007 for the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium by Morrill Solutions.

Urban Institute Study
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.

Great Britain
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, as part of their ten-year "Frameword for the Future" planning process, is developing Public Library Impact Measures. Their resources include information on library service measures, selected to show the contribution libraries make to five of the seven shared priorities agreed by central and local government.

Additional information

The following were collected from responses to a PUBLIB query by Andrea Berstler, Director, Village Library of Morgantown PA:

The Mid-Hudson Library System in New York has general resources on library "return on investment."

The topic heading of Economic Impact of Library Services on the resource page for the Library Research Service of the Colorado State Library. They include a separate link for information on Return on Investment studies in addition to their own.

The Maine State Libary offers a spreadsheet originally provided by the Massachusetts Library Association you can use to calculate your libraries economic impact on the community at:

A bibliography with links to resources at: Bibliography "Impact and Outcome of Libraries"
Additional reports can be found at
Holt, Glen E., et al (1999). Bibliography of articles on the St. Louis Public Library cost-benefit analysis study.
Olson, Chris. What's in it for them? Communicating the Value of Information Services . Information Outlook, November 2002, pp. 19-23.
Walzer, N. and Stott, K. Enhancing Economic Development Through Libraries . Macomb: IIRA. [IIRA Reports-7/1/1998]

An article Holt co-authored entitled "Measuring outcomes: applying cost-benefit analysis to middle-sized and smaller public libraries" from Library Trends can be found at: