A new report from the Ohio Library Council, highlighted in the Columbus Dispatch, highlights the strength, and benefits, of public library usage in the Buckeye State. And judging by the data, provided independently by Howard Fleeter & Associates for the Council, Ohio’s policies could serve as a model for states across the Union, and beyond.
The headline figures, as per the infographic, are that Ohio has the highest per capita library use of all states in the U.S, “averaging 7.5 visits per year for each person.” Additionally, “Ohio has the highest number of library transactions per capita in the country, utilizing library materials and services at a rate that is more than twice the national average.” According to the report, “Ohio’s percentage of residents who are registered borrowers is 77.8 percent. Only one state, Minnesota at 79.3 percent, shows a higher usage rate of its public libraries.” Furthermore, “for every $1 spent by public libraries in Ohio, state residents receive an average of $5.48 in value.”
The impressive value figures for Ohio’s library services come in two ways. First, there are the direct services delivered to Ohioans. “Ohio’s public libraries provided nearly $2.7 billion in direct economic value (or “benefit”) to Ohio residents in 2014.” Then there is the multiplier effect “that occurs because the additional effect of the state’s libraries providing $2.67 billion in value to consumers is that this amount of money is ‘freed up’ to be spent elsewhere in the area economy because the library materials and services are free of charge. This spending then ripples throughout the economy.” Hence the impressive $5.48 total returned to the Ohio economy per dollar spent by Ohio public library services.
And just to drive home the point, “while Ohio public libraries provide an extensive array of services to patrons, they also do so in a cost effective manner. Ohio has one of the lowest costs per library transaction, ranking 41st nationally and well below the national average cost.”
Maybe this all shouldn’t come as such a surprise from the home state of Ambrose Bierce, Hart Crane, Zane Grey, William Dean Howells, Toni Morrison, William Thurber, and James Wright. But it’s heartening stuff all the same. And it ought to serve as a come-on, or even a reproach, to the other states of the Union to get fully behind their public library services. After all, just look at the results.