The Economic Value of the Free Library in Philadelphia

July 29, 2011

Fels Research and Consulting partnered with the Free Library of Philadelphia to develop a study that assessed the economic impact local libraries have in the communities they serve. 

Fels staff used the particular case of the Free Library in Philadelphia to “size” the value that our library system creates. Value was assessed in relation to four areas: (1) literacy; (2) workforce development; (3) business development; and (4) value to homes and neighborhoods.

To answer these questions, the Fels team drew on several streams of data and insight:

  • Field statistics from all Library branches including: circulation by subject area; program attendance; database usage; branch hours, circulation and attendance.
  • Interviews with 17 librarians and 33 library patrons at 14 branches throughout the city.
  • A survey of 3,971 Library patrons and 85 librarians.
  • Census data and Bureau and Labor Statistics data for the City of Philadelphia.

Fels Senior Consultant Deborah Diamond and Associate Consultant Marissa Litman MPA'11 conducted the primary research for this project.  Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library, wrote about the project and the need for a strong local library system in an Op-Ed featured in the August 19th edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

For detailed findings, read the full report here.

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