How Victorian public libraries contribute to the health and wellbeing of their communities
What difference do public libraries make? What role do they play in affecting the mental health and physical wellbeing of the communities they serve? How much value (=savings) do they deliver for the public health sector?
In late 2022, under the broad umbrella of Statewide Public Library Development Projects delivered by State Library Victoria (SLV) in partnership with Public Libraries Victoria, research was conducted to understand and quantify the value that public libraries contribute towards community health and wellbeing.
SGS Economics & Planning and Prescience Research were engaged to produce The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Public Libraries (HWBPL) report, an exciting body of work that found that Victorians who engage with their local library enjoy significantly better health and wellbeing than those who don’t.
Empowering Communities and Enriching Lives
Victoria’s public libraries play a crucial role in empowering and enriching the lives of users and non-users alike. Viewing library services through a health and wellbeing lens allows us to see just how much they contribute to the broader Victorian healthcare system, providing a range of services that collectively return almost double their value in benefits each year, and could be viewed as savings for the Victorian healthcare system. (The HWBPL report calculated that public libraries cost the state $241M per annum but yield $401M in benefits).
Health literacy (the ability to source, comprehend and apply knowledge to make decisions about health care) is a key determinant of an individual’s health and wellbeing. Victoria’s public libraries provide preventative health measures by providing credible and authoritative access to health information and resources, and connecting people with knowledgeable staff who can help navigate mis/dis/information. This is particularly valuable for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds with low English language skills and those whose gender, ethnicity or sexuality might…