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Libraries for living, and for living better
The value and impact of public libraries in the East of England

Edited by John Gordon

ISBN 978-1-915812-21-6


A report into the value and impact of libraries in the East of England commissioned by Libraries Connected and part funded by Arts Council England. Academics from CreativeUEA and UEA Health Economics Consulting were tasked with estimating the economic value of libraries in the region, which comprises Bedford Borough, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Luton, Norfolk, Peterborough, Southend, Suffolk, and Thurrock library services. The UEA team, led by Professor John Gordon, developed a new tool that ascribes monetary value to various library activities based on their equivalent commercial rates, the savings they create for taxpayers and their projected financial impact on individuals. The research focused on three service areas: digital inclusion, children’s literacy and health and wellbeing. Through extensive library visits, user interviews and statistical analysis, the authors estimated that a branch library typically provides £1m in value annually. They then extrapolated the findings to all of England’s 3,000 libraries, giving a national total of £3.4bn. Using Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) spending data for the year 2021/22, this represents a return on investment of at least six times cost. The book includes statistical analysis and a range of case studies across the three service areas.


“For the first time, we have rigorous academic analysis the demonstrates the far-reaching economic and social impact of libraries. This innovative research by UEA should be a game-changer for public libraries and how they are viewed by local and national decision-makers. The evidence is clear: investing in libraries brings huge returns for local communities and the public purse.”

-- Isobel Hunter MBE, chief executive of Libraries Connected


We’re keen to fund projects like this to add to the growing research demonstrating the value and impact of libraries in communities and across society. Rigorous independent research like this is critical in speaking a language that is understood outside the sector. We hope it can help make the case to potential partners and funders locally, regionally, and nationally to support libraries in improving the lives of people in the communities they serve and shine a light on the services modern library services provide.

-- Luke Burton, Director Libraries, Arts Council England


John Gordon • Anna Blackett • Richard Fordham • Maria Garraffa • Stephanie Howard Wilsher • Eleanor Leist • Aisling Ponzo • Dan Smith • Allie Welsh • Georgios Xydopoulos

Libraries for living, and for living better

SKU: 978-1-915812-21-6
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