On July 21, Forbes published (and later retracted) a badly misinformed editorial by Panos Mourdoukoutas, chair of the department of economics at LIU Post, titled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” Clearly, professor Mourdoukoutas would have benefited from the assistance of a librarian, who could have helped him find several economic studies related to library value.
The evidence is clear: our nation’s libraries are a sound public investment.
Dozens of economic impact studies from across the country show that libraries build strong communities. Libraries fuel job creation, opportunities for business development and resources that empower users to seek and sustain employment. Taxpayers are investing in education and lifelong learning, and every dollar builds equity within their community and state and yields a tremendous return on investment (ROI).
In Ohio, for example, taxpayers enjoy an economic return of $5.48 per dollar of taxpayer support. Texas public libraries were found to provide $2.628 billion in benefits while costing $566 million, a return on investment of $4.64 for each dollar. The list of examples of economic value goes on and on.
Libraries are for the people, and are governed by the people. Unlike companies like Amazon, a library’s “bottom line” is equitable service for all—regardless of income, age or race. Library staff are committed to sustaining the role of libraries as pillars of democracy that empower users to contribute to their communities and society.
And library staff are dedicated stewards of our public dollars. I don’t know many others able to extract such value from the roughly $35 average annual investment in local tax funding. I hope professor Mourdoukoutas, and Forbes, will do a better job with their homework in the future.
Loida Garcia-Febo is international library consultant and president of information of New Wave in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the current president of the American Library Association.