Saturday, October 27, 2007

Information: The Perfect Economic Good (Part 7)


Public libraries are one of the most successful houses of information to date. Carnegie had it right when he invested all that money into creating a system where everyday citizens can obtain information. After it was all said and done, Carnegie funded total of 2,507 libraries: 1,689 in the United States; Carnegie's libraries played an important role in the education, politics, finance and social development of the United States as a house for information. Carnegie's establishment of many public libraries is one of the most important events in the history of the American public library.

The system of pooling money from the public to sustain this institution has been a great way to keep it going. Each public library has established it own way of collecting money to fund their library system. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County shares a pool of money that is funded by the State of Ohio and Kenton County Public Library is funded by shares of property taxes just in Kenton County. Through out one day, thousands of people visit and use public Libraries to check out books, use the internet, take cooking classes, and perform in depth research. Basically, they visit the library to obtain information. Julia Allegrini, Branch Librarian at Kenton County Public Library’s Mary Ann Mongan Branch located in Covington, KY says that the attendance at her library rivals that of a small amusement park. Anything that draws in that many people has economic potential.

In April 2001, two studies were released which showed to what effect that Americans use public libraries. “Public Library Use and Economic Hard Times” was put out by the University of Illinois and the American Library Association’s “Attitudes Towards Public Libraries” were both commissioned by Chicago based American Library Association (ALA) as part of its five-year Campaign for America's Libraries. The ALA contracted with the University Of Illinois Library Research Center (LRC) to study library use over the last five years at U.S. public libraries that serve populations of 1 million or more. Using data from just a few of those large libraries, the study found that circulation has increased significantly since March 2001, when the National Bureau of Economic Research made clear the beginning of a recession. Using statistical analysis, the LRC found that circulation in March 2001 was 8.3 percent higher than would be expected from the trend observed since January 1997. Following the events of September 11, circulation in October 2001 exceeded the trend by 11.3 percent.

"This data confirms what librarians have seen from experience… that people turn to their libraries and librarians," said ALA President John W. Berry. "Libraries are America's great information equalizers - the only place people of all ages and backgrounds can find and freely use such a diversity of resources, along with the expert guidance of librarians."

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