Thursday, November 3, 2011

Letter to the Editor Pittsburgh Tribune Review November 2, 2011

Letter to the Editor Pittsburgh Tribune Review November 2, 2011

Link to the Original Article: <>

Heyl’s column on e-readers and the Carnegie Library made me shake my head at his absolute lack of thought. I would think he would be more informed on the value a library brings to the community.

We provide services allowing the public to research health issues, culture, religion, personal finances and locate employment. We provide access to databases, vast print collections, and 24-hour virtual reference services. We assure that people are receiving authoritative and timely information that can shape their future. We help support the mission of schools, 17% of high school students utilize our services, as do their teachers. We provide programing for all ages to foster life-long learning and early literacy to technology classes for adults.

There are 747 libraries serving 12 million people, yet nationally we rank 43rd for local government support, 38th for combined support. Without public libraries there would be an economic loss of $1.34 billion. Patrons spend dollars locally; libraries create a “halo” effect for businesses helping generate $80 million a year. Pennsylvania library’s return on investment is 5.5 times what we receive in support, for every $1 we receive we provide $5.50 of services.

Try doing that for free with an e-reader.

Mr. Heyl requested that I provide documentation to support my statement, the following is my response:

Mr. Heyl,

I do appreciate the quick response for further information on the numbers I cited. Here is a link to the study < >.

The economic loss is the result of citizens paying for finding and utilizing alternative sources of information, as well as the lost library jobs, lost library purchases and the loss of revenue from library related businesses. Page ten of “Taxpayer Return-on-Investment (ROI) in Pennsylvania Public Libraries” provides the numbers.

The “halo” effect discussed in the above study originates from a U.K. study. I could not find an open source copy for you to read. You can locate the abstract at this link 
< >. If you can gain access, the libraries bolstering local businesses is on page 63. You can find the full citation is:

“What Happens When a Public Library Service Closes Down?” Proctor, R., Usherwood, B.,Sobczyk, G. Library Management. vol. 18, No. 1, 1997, pp. 59-64.

I understand that in today’s world every penny of public money should be scrutinized, but when you look at the value that libraries bring to the table you can see they are a worthwhile investment of both public and private monies. I do hope this information helps you view us in a better light.

Brian K. Dawson
Library Director
California Area Public Library