Telling your library impact story


As publicly funded institutions, public libraries often need to make the case to their communities that, despite providing free services to the community, libraries not only have a positive impact on the lives of those who visit the library, but also a positive economic impact on the communities around them. Quantifying these impacts to tell an impact story can help libraries not only be of further service to their community but can also be useful when seeking public funding and grants. 

In November 2022, Innovative, part of Clarivate™, hosted a webinar where Nate Coulter, Director of the Central Arkansas Library System, spoke to attendees about the impact study commissioned by the library and the effects the study had on their community. Coulter was joined by Kay Stebbins, Director of Research & Analytics with Boyette Strategic Advisors, the firm that created the study, and described some of the elements that make an effective impact study for libraries. 

Part of a library’s impact story may include grant funds obtained by the library, program attendance, the value of volunteer hours, use of the library facilities by community members, and participation in local art exhibits. A description of who is donating to the library can also be illustrative of who finds the library valuable. 

But what about the impacts of a library that can’t be quantified in dollars and cents? Kay Stebbins addresses this challenge, noting that while it may not be possible to quantify a library’s social and cultural impacts, they can be part of the impact story by conducting interviews with community members and including their stories as part of the library’s impact story. 

Many libraries also conduct activities to help the community beyond what may be considered the “typical” activities of a library of providing reading, watching and listening materials, offering meeting space, and providing programming. In recent years, many libraries have been distributing masks and COVID-19 test kits, partnering with other local organizations to offer food assistance, offering clothing and toiletry donation drop-off, and more. These services contribute significantly to the well-being of a community, but those who don’t work closely with the library, even decision-makers, may not be aware of all this “added value.”  

Once you have a finished product, you can broaden the reach of the study by reaching out to local media. Making infographic material available, which Boyette and CALS did with bookmarks, can also help the casual observer grasp your library’s impact, even if they don’t take the time to understand what might be a complex economic model highlighted in a report. The report can also serve as a way for members of your community to learn more about everything the library has to offer.  

We invite you to watch the webinar for yourself: Click here to watch the webinar on demand. 

What if commissioning a study isn’t a reality for your library? Watch this space for news about Vega Analyze, the tool that helps libraries create reports about library activities with data and guided analysis. 

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