Public Libraries Contribute to Local Economic Development, Study Finds

Public libraries build a community's capacity for economic activity and resiliency, a new study from the Urban Institute finds.

Commissioned by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) in Evanston, Illinois, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates and Geraldine R. Dodge foundations, the report, Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development (35 pages, PDF), reconfirms that public libraries are shifting from being passive institutions for recreational reading and research to active economic development agents working to address such issues as literacy, workforce training, small business vitality, and community quality of life.

The study relates specific ways local governments, agencies, and libraries are working together to benefit individuals, agencies, and the community at large in four areas: early literacy services, employment and career resources, small business resources and programs, and a physical presence that contributes to stability, safety, and quality of life, while attracting foot traffic, providing long-term tenancy, and complementing neighboring retail and cultural destinations. Capitalizing on these strengths, libraries can fuel not only current but also emerging economic activity.

"The rules of engagement in economic development are changing," said ULC President Mart�n G�mez. "Strategies for building a strong base are being realigned in the context of the knowledge economy."

"Libraries Are Key to Building Local Economic Base Says New Study." Urban Libraries Council Press Release 01/11/2007.