Thursday, May 01, 2008

WAPL - Economic Impact of Wisconsin Public Libraries

This was the breakout session after the keynote. The state library will be posting the slides from the keynote. They also promised to publish the slide show this break-out session. [Links to be added when verified.]

David Ward talked about how to present the study on the economic impact of libraries. He started by talking about his company, as a background. They do a lot of work in regional economic studies. [I have heard his parts of his basic economics speech and on his business before. He spoke to the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce a while back.]

He talked about the "new economy" and the importance of regional organization and thinking. He talked about the New North, and other joint planning efforts including Momentum (which includes Eau Claire).

It is important to set the context by talking about the four economic trends highlighted in his main speech. He offered slides for use to libraries who are making the presentation.

There are so many things happening in the world today that people are confused.

His income gap slide (which shows family income by educational attainment) shows the critical role for libraries which support people's acquiring a better standard of living. From 1976 to 2000, real family income (that is adjusted for inflation) has decreased for those with less than high school education and only a high school education.

Economic multipliers are acquired from various sources some are often available locally.

Be careful to not overstate your case. Libraries are not an economic engine. First mission is to provide services. But....public libraries are in important part of the new economy.

One slide showed three key points:
  1. ROI is $4.06 for every $1.00 of taxpayer investment
  2. Overall (conservative) economic impact of $753 million
  3. Library serves as a knowledge/information resource base
The last point may be the most important and includes not only the collections by the value of the people.

Messages to use:
  1. Public libraries are a good and necessary investment in a rapidly changing economy.
  2. Public libraries are a consistent source of information and technology. They won't be acquired closed down or moved offshore.
  3. With an increasing gap in income levels, public libraries level the information and technology playing field.
  4. A growing wave of retiring baby boomers will use libraries as a key part of their working and non-working lives.
He then went to questions.

There has not been a study done of Minnesota. The state economies of Wisconsin and Minnesota were equal in size in 1990, that is no longer true. Minnesota has half a million fewer people. Some think the brain drain is the reason, but that may not be true. However, Wisconsin does not attract "new brains" while Minnesota does. Financial risk-taking has always been greater in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a manufacturing state with a guarded mind-set. Minnesota has had a broader vision, and companies like 3M encouraged spin-offs. There is change in Wisconsin, but it is slow.

It is important to use the ROI argument in print but verbalize the services argument. The economic multipliers come from the Implan Group in Minnesota (ironically).

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