Arts Council England (ACE) has commissioned new research into how the public library service contributes to the national economy.
The first stage of the research will include pulling together existing local and international studies which have measured the economic impact of libraries. After collating, ACE will publish the current thought on libraries and the economy in summer 2014. This will then identify areas for further research, and be used as the basis for a second stage of research, which will be ready in 2015.
Brian Ashley, the libraries director at ACE, said: "Numerous stories are told of how people see their library as a gateway to opportunities they didn’t know they had, often described as a ‘lifesaver’ in a challenging world. Many of these services will have an economic impact with benefits that emerge after a long period of time and which may be affected by other factors. Those who know and love libraries will already be aware of this; our challenge is to make the assertion more widely known and provide the evidence to back it up."
He said that the research would help prove the value of libraries and make a stronger case for a sustainable service. He added: "A piece of research of this kind will help us to advocate a more complete picture of the public value of libraries to the economic life of this country and this, in turn, will help make the case for a resilient and sustainable service."
ACE's last major project involving libraries was the Envisioning the Future of the Library report, released in May last year. The news of the new research project follows hot on the heels of Department of Culture, Media and Sport's announcement of a review into the public library service led by William Sieghart.