The Linkage(s) between Libraries and Economic Development

The Linkage(s) between Libraries and Economic Development
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By Binish Qadri

Merit goods are those goods which are determined on the basis of need rather than willingness and ability to pay and therefore socially valuable (Ali, 2016).Both public and private sector provide such goods. Education and  libraries are classic examples of   merit goods which enhance human skills and competences (Misra, 2001) and generate positive externalities. Externalities are positive or negative effects of an economic activity (Baumol, 1972).  A library is a merit good which society values and judges that readers should have regardless of their ability to pay. And, for this reason, the government should act benignly in providing good library services. Libraries have been true knowledge hubs and repositories throughout history; this holds true for our future infrastructures too. They act as a network of assimilated, mutually strengthening and evolving infrastructures, particularly, societal, technological, epistemological and moral ones which can better guide us in recognizing and classifying what starring roles we want our libraries to serve. Infrastructure of an economy has two broad types, viz., social infrastructure and physical infrastructure (Kumari, 2017).

The former is directly dependent on the needs of all those services that satisfy the basic needs of a society like health services, drinking water, sewerage, sanitation, electricity, education facilities and so on.  A library can,  therefore,  be directly associated with this kind of infrastructure.   The latter, on the other hand, is directly dependent upon the needs of the production sectors like primary or agriculture sector, secondary or manufacturing sector, service or tertiary sector and so on. (Qadri, 2018).

In the same manner, the infrastructure of library has two broad dimensions: social and physical. The former is directly dependent on the needs of people,  in general,  and students and scholars, in particular,  that satisfy the basic needs of a present day knowledge based society. While as the  latter, on the other hand, is directly dependent upon income and investment level in an economy. There are many distinctive characteristics that help us to make a distinction between infrastructure sector and library sector of the economy. One such distinction is that infrastructure is a comprehensive term encompassing infrastructure of library while as library is a narrow term included in infrastructure.

It is important to note that public library is a public good having two essential characteristics-non-rivalry and non-excludability (Cooper et al., 2009). Most of the physical infrastructure services have some characteristics or qualities of public good. As far as private libraries are concerned,  some of these have both characteristics of public goods  and some have one or the other. The readers may be charged for these services or these may be supplied free of cost. But, even when they are supplied against a price, it is not all the time possible to exclude those readers who chose not to pay for them. Also, the library creates externalities- both a positive externality as well as a negative externality. When the social benefit of the library services far exceeds the cost involved then it creates a positive externality and vice versa. The existence of externalities particularly in the arena of social welfare has created a dominant position for libraries, particularly in production and distribution of library services. Investment in the  infrastructure of library, whether social or private, is not undertaken in bits or parts but a lump-sum investment under which any expenditure on the part of the project is not useful until the whole project is ready for operations. And this lump-sum investment, in turn, is the result of indivisibilities which is a characteristic feature of most infrastructure projects. There are certain things which cannot be detached or put off as far as growth and development is concerned. Public infrastructure including public libraries constitutes a classic example here. We cannot divide and sub-divide such projects in small parts and activate them. Hence, they are indivisible.

Development is highly correlated with the library infrastructure. Every country encompasses a sequence of welfare and development works in the form of physical and social infrastructure services, merit goods, including library services so as to bring positive changes in the economy, improve standard of living, quality of life and skills of its citizens, and develop the knowledge base of the economy. The role of the public goods and merit goods then  cannot be neglected as far as growth and development of a nation is concerned. Similarly, the role of books and library cannot be neglected as far as growth and development of a nation is concerned in general and human capital formation , in particular. In the entire process of growth and development of infrastructure, including library,  the state plays the main role. Good infrastructure is essential for development; and that comprehensive and rigorous libraries responsive to the needs of the people are the basis for quality Research and Development (R &D), growth of good academic as well as non academic research. Poor infrastructure and underdeveloped library is the common characteristic of an underdeveloped economy and it misleads the path of growth and development, and has inconsistent bearing on the economy in general and the knowledge of the society in particular. Hence, under-developed nations must develop strategies and policies to develop the infrastructure so as to build the knowledge base of the society and improve income, employment and output levels.

Library and Development construction/link is important not only for economic growth; these hold a resonance in terms of the creation of knowledge based societies and technological innovations in important sectors of the economy,  in general,  and agriculture, in particular,  but also for increasing labour (Y/L) and capital productivity(Y/K), human capital formation and reducing income disparities. What ideas, values and social duties can we support within the library? What values and ideas can we generate within its walls? Once we explore such questions and try to find answers to them,  we can create good link between library and development. Public infrastructure is a vital factor of production. Jammu and Kashmir economy is underdeveloped, having poor infrastructure, particularly poor public libraries, high educated unemployed and low skilled youth; therefore, it must invest judiciously in public infrastructure and public libraries at the important destinations so as to generate think tanks and raise the human capital in the economy in the short-run and long-run, particularly during periods of economic slow-down or crises. Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, and great libraries build communities. Let’s all take pledge to strive for constructing good libraries and build services for community development.


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Baumol, W. J. (1972). “On Taxation and the Control of Externalities”. American Economic Review. Vol. 62 (3): 307–22.

Cooper, T., Hart, K. and Baldock, D. (2009). The Provision of Public Goods Through Agriculture in the European Union. Report prepared for DG agriculture and Rural Development. IEEP, London.

Qadri, B. (2018).Bi-way causality betweenInfrastructure and Economic Development. Wadi Ki Awaz.  Vol. 33 No. 03, 2018, page 07.Retrieved from.

Misra, D (2001): “Human Development-Inter-State Dimensions’ in Bramanandha et. al. (eds), Development Experience in the Indian Economy, Bookwell Publication, New Delhi: 301,305.

Kumari, Anita & Sharma, A. (2017). Physical & social infrastructure in India & its relationship with economic development. World Development Perspectives. 5. 30-33. 10.1016/j.wdp.2017.02.005.


The author is a Research Scholar at the Department of Economics, Central University of Kashmir, Academic Counselor, IGNOU STUDY CENTRE 1209,S.P. College, Srinagar,  Editor of EPH – International Journal of Business and Management Science & Asian Journal of Managerial Science and an IJRULA title awards, 2018 winner (Best Researcher, 2018). She can be reached at: