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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Unveils Results of Economic Impact Study

  • Reinforces library's critical role in strengthening communities and reaching region's youth
  • CLP annually sustains more than 700 jobs, an economic return of $91 million, and an additional $41 million in estimated value to the community
Press Contact: Suzanne M. Thinnes
Communications Manager
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
412-688-8609 (fax)
412-491-6889 (cell)

For Immediate Release

Pittsburgh, PA, April 27, 2006 - A new economic impact study unveiled today shows that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides quantifiable economic benefits to the region and is the Pittsburgh area's most visited regional asset. The study was conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Economic Development. "The Economic Impact Study confirms that the 110-year-old Carnegie Library system has successfully evolved with the times and remains an important force for our region," said Dr. Barbara Mistick, Director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. "In an environment of increasing electronic resources, decreasing public budgets and evolving social responsibilities, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides valuable economic and educational support to the community." The library generates a return of more than $91 million to the economy of Allegheny County, which equals $6 for every dollar of local public funding, and $75 worth of annual benefits per person in the County.

One of the most significant findings of the study is the library's unique ability to reach the next generation of people in our region, as 70% of city residents between the ages of 13 and 36 have a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh card. "Many would think that our youth's Internet usage and savvy would diminish the role of libraries. However, this study proves that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has been successful in meeting the changing needs of its card holders by transforming the system into a reliable resource where people can still borrow books, but can also do much, much more, including access the Internet and participate in a variety of community-based activities," said Maxwell King, president, Heinz Endowments.

Equally important, according to Dr. Mistick, the study clearly concludes that the library has a positive impact on area residents' quality of life. A majority of the 1,300 individuals surveyed, and participants in several focus groups, ranked the positive impacts Carnegie Library delivers as follows: promotes literacy and learning; improves the neighborhood quality of life; provides activities for children and teens; provides an informal gathering place and public meeting rooms; provides career, job and business resources; attracts customers to other businesses; and increases property values and safety. As an example, in 2005, more than 4,500 different groups participated in programs held across all library locations with almost 70,000 people attending. Beyond in-house programs, Carnegie Library conducted outreach programs to more than 3,000 groups in 2005, reaching 80,000 people.

The study also demonstrates clear economic impacts on the people of the region as follows:

  • Annually, CLP generates a return of more than $91 million in combined economic output ($63 million) and customer value ($28 million). During its current capital improvement phase, the figure is even higher due to jobs and spending generated by renovations and construction.
  • In 2004, CLP provided a return of $6 for every dollar provided by the Allegheny Regional Asset District and the City of Pittsburgh.
  • Nearly one-fifth of the residents of Allegheny County are CLP cardholders.
  • Allegheny County receives $75 worth of benefits for each resident.
  • CLP is the area's most visited regional asset, with 1.6 million visitors in 2004 and an anticipated 2.2 million in 2006.
  • Most library customers identify the library's key community benefits to be a) promoting literacy and learning and b) improving neighborhood quality of life.
  • Accounting only for circulating books, DVDs and videos as well as databases, the library provides an estimated value of $41 million to library customers each year:
    • If library customers were to purchase the books they borrow, the estimated cost to them would be $27 million.
    • If library customers were to pay $3 to rent the DVDs and videos they borrow, the estimated cost to them would be $2 million.
    • The library provides free access to databases that in many cases would not be available to the public, providing as much as $12 million in value to the community in databases alone.

Jerry Paytas, Director of the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Economic Development, indicated, "With the finding that the library provides more than $75 worth of benefits for every resident of Allegheny County, this study confirms the value and impact that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has in our region, in terms of return on investment as well as its contributions to people and their communities."

"There are many common misperceptions about the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. For example, many people believe that Andrew Carnegie endowed the operations of our library, providing long-term security. Unfortunately, that is not true," said Dr. Mistick. "There is no guaranteed source of funding for our libraries. We rely on the critical support of the state, the city, the Allegheny Regional Asset District, as well as gifts, grants and support from our customers to provide the necessary funding to keep this tremendous asset alive in our region. We rely on the entire community to be advocates for our library."

The study was conducted using various data collection and analysis methods including an online survey completed by more than 1,300 individuals, several focus groups conducted with business users and community stakeholders, cost-benefit analysis and an economic impact model to measure library impact on jobs and the economy. This research was funded by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh through generous donations from the ALCOA Foundation and Eden Hall Foundation.

"Free to the People" since 1895
Established as a public trust in 1895, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh serves the citizens of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County with a distinguished history of leadership among the country's great public libraries. Through its 19 neighborhood locations, including the Main Library in Oakland and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is the region's most visited asset. Each year the library provides more than 6,000 free programs, classes and other learning and training opportunities that are tailored to meet the dynamic and diverse needs of people living in Western Pennsylvania.

The report was prepared by the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Economic Development (CED) which provides the research and policy intelligence to foster an innovative region. An affiliate of Carnegie Mellon's H. J. Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, the Center harnesses the vast resources of one of the nation's top universities to guide action in policy and strategy.