Evidence review of the economic contribution of libraries

Arts Council England,
04 June 2014, England

The publication of this evidence review marks an important first step in our understanding of the direct contribution public libraries can make economically, as well as the indirect contribution made through the social and educational benefits they provide to individuals and communities.

In a climate where local authorities face significant financial challenges, understanding the economic contribution of libraries is particularly important to the library sector. It is a question of some complexity and this report summarises both the evidence available on the subject, and the ways in which others have approached the question, including the advantages and potential pitfalls of the different methodologies.

This evidence review does not seek to establish a single monetary value or range of values for libraries but instead reviews the different ways of approaching the question of economic contribution, and the current available evidence including how social and educational benefits might have a knock-on, economic effect.

Next steps

During the next 12 months the Arts Council will be investigating further areas of impact and asking how libraries contribute to healthy lives and what that represents financially.  We will be working with partners across the sector like the Society of Chief Librarians, the British Library and the Local Government Association, alongside the wider library constituency to develop our research in this field.  

Brian Ashley, Director Libraries, Arts Council England, said: ‘We always knew this was a complex area, and we are fortunate to be able to build on the work of so many who have explored it both in this country and across the world. It would be great to be able to define the full economic contribution of libraries, and we will continue that work, but nobody should lose sight of the difference they make to people’s lives day in, day out, in communities all across the country.’