Friday, May 2, 2008

Public libraries boost economy

Northstar Economics has unveiled the results of a statewide study on the economic impact of public libraries. The study was commissioned by the Department of Public Instruction using federal LSTA funds as well as grant funds from the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries.

In presentations at the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries conference, David Ward of Northstar noted several key points:

  1. Return on investment is $4.06 for every $1.00 of taxpayer investment
  2. Overall (conservative) annual economic contribution is $753 million
  3. Library serves as a knowledge/information resource base

Relevant messages for libraries to share:
  1. Particularly in a rapidly changing global economy, public libraries are a good and necessary investment .
  2. Public libraries are a consistent source of information and technology, and won't be acquired, closed down, or moved offshore.
  3. Earnings are tied to education, and with an increasing gap in income levels, public libraries level the information and technology playing field.
  4. Wisconsin is below average for per capita income and below average for growth. Libraries can be part of changing that.
  5. A growing wave of retiring baby boomers will use libraries as a key part of their working and non-working lives.
The report notes that library visits increased 28% in the past 10 years, and materials circulation, children's program attendance, computer access, and electronic access to library catalogs are also showing healthy growth.

Perhaps not coincidentally, our staff, in assessing the Best Practices Review, recently published by the Legislative Audit Bureau, noted that the Appleton Public Library shows some of the fastest growth in use among large libraries in the state. Of the ten libraries with the highest circulation between 2002-2006, only Madison and LaCrosse showed faster growth in use than Appleton; our circulation grew 22.1% in that time.

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