First of all, I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For myself, I believe I am fully recovered from the food coma that was Thursday. The Packers smoking the Lions helped.
Now onto more mundane stuff-- it is difficult to pin down the exact economic impact of libraries, but recent studies indicate that it is significant. In Wisconsin, a study done in 2008 indicated that for every tax dollar spent to support libraries, the state's residents got back over $4 in goods and services. The full report can be found here, along with links to other studies.
This echoes findings found in the rest of the country, as well. Studies done in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington show similar results. In Ohio, a study showed that nine public library systems generated an annual economic impact of nearly four times the amount invested in their operations.
Libraries draw people to a community, bring people in to shopping districts and downtown areas. We offer job training and retraining help in difficult economic times, and help to those learning the vital computer skills so important in the 21st century. We connect individuals and groups and offer a backbone of knowledge that benefits not just our patrons but everyone they interact with before and after their visits.
The Wisconsin Library Association had a catch phrase a few years back that I think sums it up well: If knowledge is power, than libraries are power plants.
And we are-- efficient, highly flexible and adaptable power plants.