How do you quantify a public good? Library supporters have struggled with this problem for a long time, as public libraries are often the first institutions up on a budget-slasher’s chopping block. But a recent study from the London School of Economics bolsters the value of libraries in a major way. By translating well-being gained from visits to the library into dollars, the study’s authors conclude that a year of library visits is equivalent to a little more than a $2,200 raise.
Similar patterns hold for the value of engaging with the arts and sports, but libraries generated the most well-being bucks. The authors used two 40,000-person well-being surveys to generate the regression models that came up with the figures.
It doesn’t really come as a huge surprise that libraries would generate such enormous well-being capital. Recent studies show that even reading a little bit each day cuts stress, develops empathy, and boosts academic achievement. That said, it does feel a little gimmicky to try and sell the enormous social benefits of libraries as empty dollar signs. Still, in a world that demands that kind of analysis, the LSE study shows that libraries can play the game, too.