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Library may fuel economy

Community: City and local merchants hope for fiscal boost when new building is finished

Posted: February 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

The city of Santa Clarita and Newhall merchants have high hopes that a new library there will help boost business.
Since the Great Recession started, people rely on their local libraries more than ever to weather trying times, an April 2010 national report states.

It’s a reliance that Santa Clarita leaders and Newhall business owners are banking on.

The city expects to spend $25 million on the 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

At the construction site on Lyons Avenue at the base of downtown Newhall, contractors prepared the site to lay the foundation.

Once the Old Town Newhall Library opens next year, the city expects as many as a half-million patrons each year, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

Many of those patrons are expected to stop by nearby businesses.

“I think this is going to be a really positive step forward, and I think that it’s going to stimulate interest in the old town (Newhall) real estate,” said Tim Crissman, a longtime Newhall resident and business owner. Crissman plans to move his real estate business to Newhall within the year.

Raul Bojorquez, who has run El Trocadero Restaurant on Main Street for 12 years, said the addition of a new, modern library will be good for the neighborhood’s business community and reputation.

Eddie Galicia, co-owner of nearby Angel’s Beauty Salon, said that he and his wife, Monica, were looking forward to the library’s opening.

“It’s going to be good for Main Street,” he said.

Libraries can and should positively affect the economic development of cities, recent state studies and economists say.

The American Library Association’s “2010 State of America’s Libraries” report revealed that more than 25 million Americans said they used their public libraries 20 times over a 12-month period.

One case study measured a Philadelphia public library’s impact on local business development and job creation. “The Economic Value of the Free Library in Philadelphia,” conducted by the Penn Fels Institute of Government, was published in October 2010.

The study found that the Philadelphia library indirectly netted the city more than $30 million that year, mostly by providing resources to local business owners and job seekers.

Meanwhile, property values in the area surrounding the Philadelphia library got a boost, according to the study.

In 2007, The Urban Libraries Council, a library resources and advocacy organization, published a similar study. The Urban Libraries Council vouched for public libraries’ considerable effect on their surrounding communities’ ability to foster economic development.

And that’s not just short-term, drop-in patronage. It’s a long-term investment as well, library expert Susan C Curzon, Ph. D., said.

“The knowledge that libraries offer certainly helps economic development,” said Curzon, former Dean Emeritus of the University Library at California State University, Northridge.

She said investing in a new public library sends a message that the area is an economically stable, viable place to live and do business, in addition to providing innumerable resources for local workers and job-seekers.

Kimberly Ritter, associate economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, agreed.

“What you have is a whole effect of creating educated kids who will go on to technical training or college … That’s where your economic impact comes from,” Ritter said.

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