ISBN: 978-0-7287-1554-7

The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries. Full report

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
Fujiwara D, Lawton R, Mourato S

Year of Publication:

Arts Council England

Publication Type:


SImetrica were commissioned to research the value of the health and wellbeing benefits of library engagement measured through economic value, using methods that are consistent with the HM Treasury Green Book guidance. The study seeks to identify:
• the value of engagement in library services in terms of the impact on people’s overall quality of life
• the value to society of the health benefits of library services.

2,000 adult library visitors and non-visitors took part in an online survey, where a visitor is defined as someone who has visited a public library in the past 12 months. All respondents were asked how much additional council tax they would be prepared to pay per year to maintain the current level of services at their local libraries. Health-related secondary benefits were estimated using the Taking Part and British Household Panel Survey datasets, exploring the association between library service usage and general health and value improvements in general health using GP-related NHS cost savings.

Key findings:
• Average willingness to pay (WTP) to maintain current library services among library users in England is £19.51 per year in increased council tax, whereas the average WTP to maintain current library services among non-users of libraries in England is £10.31
• Those who access a wider range of services from their library (eg “health services”, lectures, events, a space for socialising) report a higher WTP than the average user
• Analysis of the health and subjective wellbeing data reveals that library use is positively associated with subjective wellbeing after controlling for a wide range of other factors, and includes higher life satisfaction, higher happiness and a higher sense of purpose in life
• Library engagement has a positive association with general health. After controlling for other confounding factors, being a regular library user is associated with a 1.4 per cent increase in the likelihood of reporting good general health. The study valued this improvement in health in terms of cost savings to the NHS. Based on reductions in GP visits caused by this improvement in health, medical cost savings associated with library engagement are predicted at £1.32 per person per year.

Evidence Type: Survey

Main Focus: Community Development

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Community

Participant Group: Adults

Art Forms: Literature

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

Fujiwara, D., Lawton, R., Mourato, S. (2015). The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries. Full report. Manchester: Arts Council England.