Suffolk County Council did not commission an independent economic impact study of our libraries before taking an axe to spending on them. Philadelphia has conducted an enquiry, by the the University of Pennsylvania, and found its libraries created more than $30 million worth of economic value in the 2010 financial year.
The American Libraries Magazine says:
Particularly noteworthy is the library’s impact on business development and employment, which has rightfully become an ongoing national concern. Survey respondents reported that they couldn’t have started, sustained, or grown an estimated 8,600 businesses without the resources they accessed at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Direct economic impact: Almost $4 million.
Librarians have come to expect that data will back up their positive effect on the creation of jobs (1,000 found work thanks to FLP [Free Library of Philadelphia] resources, pumping $30 million in salaries into the economy) and tax revenue ($1.2 million) in a given community. The Fels [university institute] study also offered a pleasant surprise: Researchers found that Philadelphia homes located within a quarter-mile of a branch library were worth an average of $9,630 more than homes outside that radius.
While this is an American report on free libraries in a major city the findings are fascinating (download a copy). At the very least they suggest that the county council should have carried out a proper investigation before deciding on cuts.
The consultation on Suffolk libraries is now open. I am not going to engage in in their options which make a mockery of the word consultation. But I will respond saying they need to go back to the drawing board.
Kathy Pollard, leader of the Lib Dem and Independent group on the council, also makes the good point that Suffolk libaries are among the cheapest in the country to run.
The American Libraries Magazine says: “As stressed as U.S. libraries have been by the economic downturn, the crisis seems to pale in comparison to public libraries in Britain”
Later: The East Anglian Daily Times is running a story headlined Suffolk: Why can Norfolk protect ibraries and school crossing patrols yet we can’t. Norfolk has larger cuts to make and the paper highlights the much more meaningful public consultations carried out by the northerly neighbour.