More than a good book: contingent valuation of public library services in England
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Libraries in England have an important role as providers of a range of services, from book-lending and computer access to children’s activities, training courses and meeting spaces. Understanding the value of libraries is a complex issue due to the wide-ranging services that libraries provide and their inherently non-market nature. This study estimates the value of engagement in library services through a large contingent valuation study of around 2000 library users and non-users. We find that average willingness to pay (WTP) to maintain current library services (above the core book-lending and computer/Internet services) among library users in England is £19.51/annum and £10.31/annum for non-users. This provides a combined annual WTP for these local library services of £723.4 million. This is the first study to disaggregate WTP values by the services that respondents report having used. Those using health services, attending lectures and using library space for socialising are willing to pay more on average to maintain all services at their local library. Library use is also positively associated with subjective well-being, suggesting that libraries have an important role in users’ quality of life. This provides supporting evidence that the values for public libraries can be interpreted as reflecting primary benefits stemming from welfare changes associated with library engagement.
KeywordsContingent valuation Stated preference Willingness to pay Cultural value Public goods Public libraries
We would like to thank Iulian Gramatki for his assistance in final drafting of this manuscript.
This study was funded by Arts Council England.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
Aside from the funding received from Arts Council England by Daniel Fujiwara, the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Primary data were collected from a population aged 16 and above following ethical standards set by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK.
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