Kanawha County Public Library construction projects will produce an additional $18 million in economic activity and create 667 jobs in Kanawha County while underway, a study by Marshall University concludes.
The study was conducted to determine the economic return to Kanawha County of proposed construction projects and of services provided by the library. Results were released at a meeting of the KCPL Board of Directors and The Library Foundation of Kanawha County on May 9.
The report, prepared by Marshall's Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), also found that once completed, the new and renovated library facilities are expected to pump an additional $4.1 million into Kanawha County's economy each year. KCPL is the largest public library system in West Virginia with 10 locations and a mobile library serving more than 180,000 county residents and more than 89,000 registered borrowers.
The library has been pursuing funding to build a new Main Library in Charleston, new branches in Elkview and Marmet, and additions and renovations to facilities in Cross Lanes, Dunbar, St. Albans and Sissonville. The total cost of the projects was originally estimated at $50 million, including $10 million for land and $40 million for construction, furnishings and equipment. That amount was reduced to approximately $47 million when library officials elected to enter into a long-term lease on a building in The Crossings Shopping Center in Elkview, rather than constructing a new branch building. Construction on the leased mall facility is well underway, and the library hopes to be in it and operating this summer.
"We wanted the community and community leaders to know how much the library projects will help the economy. The library doesn't just provide great service, it's a huge contributor to the economy and quality of life in Kanawha County" said Library Foundation President Tom Heywood. "We always knew that, but now we have the data to back it up."
Dr. Cal Kent, vice president of CBER and principal investigator on the project, said the study was conducted using Economic Value Analysis.
"EVA asks what would people be willing to pay for library services if they were not provided at low or no cost, as well as what are the output, income, jobs and taxes generated by the library," Kent said.
The study took a very conservative approach to the economic values attributed to library service. KCPL Director Alan Engelbert said the study showed conclusively that library service is a terrific value, that construction of library facilities will generate substantial economic activity both initially and after construction, and that KCPL facilities are destinations and key contributors to economic vitality and the quality of life in their communities. Last year there were more than 855,000 visits to library facilities and KCPL offered 1,525 programs for children, young adults and families, reaching more than 25,500 people. Use of electronic services has exploded as well, with almost 1.3 million web pages delivered to patrons from the library's website in the last year.
Library Board President Mike Albert pointed out that the CBER study shows the library returned $2.24 in service for every dollar spent and library users estimated their households saved an average of $90.25 per month by using the library for books, films, meeting space and programs for all ages.
Kent and research associate Emily Hagan said they were hoping to get 400 responses to the survey but actually received more than 3,500 responses and many positive comments, which they view as further evidence of the value of the library. Very few negative comments were listed. Lack of parking at the downtown facility was the most common.
The study was commissioned by the library and its foundation, and was supported by a grant of federal Library Services and Technology Act funds from the U.S. Institute for Museum and Library Services, administered by the West Virginia Library Commission. A copy of the study called "Economic Impacts and Valuation Associated with the Construction and Operation of New and Renovated Kanawha County Public Library Facilities" is available at www.kanawhalibrary.org.