Tag Archives: business

Arts Council England publish Evidence review of the economic contribution of libraries

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.


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The Library Helped Me Believe In Myself – Sarah’s Story

Sarah Childs provided us with a copy of a letter she sent to MP Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport), which we wanted to share with you.

Dear Mr. Hunt,

I am writing to you regarding the cuts that are being proposed to library
services across the country. I should begin by stating that I am currently
training to be a librarian, but my objections to these proposals are as a
citizen, not as a library school student.

I am fortunate enough to be from a household where there were plenty of
books, and as I grew older, an internet connection. However, I still used
the library service widely as it allowed me to make my own decisions about
what I wanted to read, rather than my parents making those choices for me.
As a somewhat shy child, whose lack of confidence held me back at school
early on, the books I took out of the library helped me believe in myself,
and my school marks quickly improved.

When I grew older, and I was applying to university, I used my local and
school libraries to do the extra reading to help me clinch a place at the
University of Cambridge. I was the only person from my state school who got
a place at Oxbridge, and I firmly believe it was due to* *not only the
reading I had done specifically for the interview, but also all the
information I had imbibed from a young age in the library.

As you will know from your own education, the libraries at Oxbridge are
absolutely outstanding, and I remained amazed and fascinated by all the
information at my disposal. Additionally, the money I saved from barely ever
having to buy a book could be used for other purposes, such as a trip to
Sweden to assist me with my dissertation.

However, whilst at university, it became clear to me that not everyone had
this same reverence for the libraries at our university. I remember speaking
to a boy in the year below who had been at a private school, and was just
about to start his first year of his degree. He said to me, “Well, *of
course*, ALL the key texts on our reading list were in my school library, so
I’ve read them already…” It had never even occurred to me previously that
anybody at any school would have such high level sociological and political
texts in their school library.

I do not want the above story to read as an attack on private schools.
Rather, I think it shows the massive disparity between different groups in
our society in terms of their access to information. Last year, I lived in
the London Borough of Hackney and it became clear to me whenever I used the
public libraries, that there were some people there who were very dependent
on the library service. I often saw people in there who appeared to be using
it to support their businesses, such as selling things on the internet.

I feel that it is very easy to dismiss the importance of libraries in the
digital age but in fact the access that libraries are providing to e-books
and the internet are all the more vital. In difficult economic times, these
resources, alongside the help of trained, paid and dedicated staff can make
all the difference in someone’s life. Just like that boy I spoke to at
university, I worry that some of the people making these decisions about
libraries do not appreciate what it is like to not have all the information
you could want within easy reach.

I therefore urge you to do anything in your power to stop library cuts,
whether they are in the form of charging for internet use, a decrease to the
book funds, or outright library closures. Thankyou for reading this email –
I only hope you act upon it.

Yours sincerely, Sarah Childs

Kristin’s story

I left college in May, and now armed with qualifications, I’m out on the prowl for work. I have been actively applying for work, however since the start of the recession I’ve been very aware of the scarcity of jobs and the abundance of applicants and that actually setting up my own business would be the way forward. Being mentally prepared for this has meant I’m now in the process of starting up as a sole trader – providing photographic services to commercial clients and also to brides-to-be.

Its not easy setting up and photography is an extremely competitive business. Being a new graduate and still working on building my client list, I have limited financial resources at my disposal. Every penny I spend is carefully and cautiously considered.  So of course I love having free access to resources that can help me.

I recently attended a Business Gateway networking session for women into business. During the event, there was a five-minute introduction from the local library, talking about what services they could offer to new businesses. During the coffee break, there was a crowd gathered around the library representatives, asking questions and everyone signing up for a library card. I queued patiently, and was provided with fact sheets and a new library card.

With my new library card, I can access information not just by visiting the library, but also remotely via the internet using Cobra (Complete Business Reference Adviser). It’s an absolute treasure chest to me, with information helping me with the day-to-day obstacles I have to overcome to set up my business. In addition, I also have access to valuable marketing information, which I’m using to help plan how to market my business effectively and make the most of my limited financial resources.

At a time when banks are closing doors to new and small businesses, the library has become a haven of information to help me work around that. My library card is probably as valuable as a credit card. What it gives me in information, I am going to be able to use to target customers effectively and allow my business to grow. By providing this service, libraries contribute directly to positive local economic growth, something we shouldn’t forget particularly in the middle of a recession.