Yesterday, Arts Council England published a report focused on the economic contribution of libraries. As well as economic contribution the report also commented on the value libraries played in the following key areas:
- Children and young people’s education and personal development
- Adult education, skills and employability
- Health and wellbeing
- Community support and cohesion
- Digital inclusion
With regard to economic benefits the report highlights:
…whilst libraries may not ‘turn a profit’ they provide us with many
things that support local economies, from information for businesses, to
access to essential text books. Libraries have a local presence and may
contribute to a sense of place. Then there are the beneficial effects of services
accessed in a library whether that be a social reading club, support to quit
smoking, or help looking for jobs online. These are the services that ensure
effective and financially efficient public spending and enable us to lead
healthy and fulfilling lives.
Further to this the report comments:
…evidence is already sufficient to conclude that public libraries provide positive outcomes for people and communities in many areas – far exceeding the traditional perception of libraries as just places from which to borrow books. What the available evidence shows is that public libraries, first and foremost, contribute to long term processes of human capital formation, the maintenance of mental and physical wellbeing, social inclusivity and the cohesion of communities. This is the real economic contribution that public libraries make to the UK. The fact that these processes are long term, that the financial benefits arise downstream from libraries’ activities, that libraries make only a contribution to what are multi-dimensional, complex processes of human and social development, suggests that attempting to derive a realistic and accurate overall monetary valuation for this is akin to the search for the holy grail. What it does show is that measuring libraries’ short term economic impact provides only a very thin, diminished account of their true value.
The complete 60 page report can be read at Arts Council England’s site.