The public library's contribution to economic growth and development : a path analysis.
This study examined the relationship that different aspects of public library use have with economic growth and development. The literature on the economic effects of public libraries is focused on proving worth to stakeholders. The measures of impact on economic growth and development are not as common. The lack of data on public libraries makes these measures more difficult to quantify. This thesis seeks to address that gap. A systematic review of the literature on public library use covers five services: the use of the library as a place, the use of the book stock, interaction with the public librarian, attendance at library programmes and use of public Internet-enabled computers. Library programmes were the most popular topic in the literature, circulation the least popular. The study built on the theoretical design of the Solow-Swan neoclassical growth model. From this, economic development was taken to be five aspects: employment, health, education, social capital and savings. Using available data, the study tested whether public libraries impact on any of these economic variables, thereby answering the primary question in this thesis: what kind of relationship exists between different parts of public library use and economic growth and development? This study used pre-existing data sourced from a variety of different datasets. The availability of the data necessitated a two-part split of the study: one that focused on results using an international dataset, and another that focused only on data from the United States of America, as it had a rich dataset available. The study employed a quantitative, empirical, method, namely regression path analysis. When looking at the results of the regressions run with international data, it was found that the circulation of library books contributes positively to all aspects of economic growth and development. The dataset from the United States of America included more features of public library use. Here, the relationship between public library use and economic growth and development was not found to be a consistently positive one. Use of public computers, for example, was found to have a negative relationship with education, the savings rate and gross domestic product. Other services, such as visits to the library, contributed in a positive way. These findings lead to the conclusion that the relationship between public library use and economic growth and development is complex. The results of this study can be used to plan public library services and effectively allocate appropriate funds. This thesis ends with a call for better data collection on public libraries and raises the question of what is the role of public libraries in the economy.
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