May 19, 2022

Free Library of Philadelphia Publishes Impact Evaluation Report

From the Free Library of Philadelphia/Publication Announcement:

2018-04-12_17-42-14The Free Library of Philadelphia recently worked with ImpactED at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania to examine the Library’s impact on its visitors. In fiscal year 2017, 640,000 people in Philadelphia held a library card, and the Library welcomed approximately 5 million in-person visits; the study revealed key details about the way these customers use and view the Free Library. The ImpactED team’s research specifically examined the impact of the Library in four key areas: community engagement, literacy, workforce development, and small-business development.

The study, which was undertaken in the fall of 2017, highlights the fact that 96% of Library users say the institution is a valuable asset to their community.


Key Findings


Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

Community Engagement Findings

  • Library visitors are largely representative (demographically) of Philadelphia residents overall.
  • Library visitors are overwhelmingly positive about the Library and its staff.
    • 97% feel safe at the Library.
    • 96% feel the Library is a valuable part of their community.
  • Visitors see the Library as a convening place and anchor point of their neighborhoods.

Literacy Findings

  • Only a small proportion of parents or caregivers visiting the Library have children who are enrolled in the different literacy programs offered.
  • Parents whose children had attended Library literacy programs report positive impacts. Of parents and caregivers who sent their children to storytime, the Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program, or the Summer Reading program,
    • 95% say storytime was valuable for their child in learning to read.
    • 95% say LEAP helped their child do well in school.
    • 94% say the Summer Reading program was valuable for their child’s literacy.
  • Read by 4th is a strong example of the Library as an organizer and convener.

Workforce Development Findings

  • Job seekers are visiting the Library and finding new and better jobs as a result of the Library’s programs and resources.
    • 29% of visitors say they visited the Library to look for a new job or learn new skills for a job in the last 12 months.
    • 32% of job seekers at the Library got a new job with the help of Library programs and resources; 23% report getting a better job.
  • Job seekers gained job skills and took positive actions toward gaining new or better employment.
    • 62% of job seekers applied for a new job.
  • Awareness and use of the Library’s different job-seeker resources and programs vary.
    • 80% of job seekers know about the free Wi-Fi; 54% use it.
    • 28% of job seekers know about the Job Seekers Guide; 21% use it.

Small Business Development Findings

  • Visitors to the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) and Regional Foundation Center (RFC) gained tangible skills necessary for starting or improving small businesses and growing nonprofit organizations in the future.
  • BRIC and RFC give people access to programming and resources not available elsewhere and are highly valued by users and those working in small-business development in the city.
  • Some visitors to BRIC and RFC took actions toward starting or improving small businesses and growing nonprofit organizations.
    • 15% of surveyed BRIC users started a small business.
    • 17% of surveyed BRIC users grew a small business.
    • 9% of RFC users received a grant or funding.

Direct to Full Text Report
38 pages; PDF.

Read the Complete Publication Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.