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Income generation in public libraries: potentials and pitfalls

Hartwig Pautz (School of Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, Dumfries, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




The aim of this paper is to discuss the literature on income generation methods in the context of the “public library ethos”. As public libraries are struggling with cuts to public spending almost everywhere, the topic of “income generation” to supplement public funding is highly relevant.


The article is a review of existing literature about income generation methods and public library ethos.


The literature review reports on a large variety of income generation methods – some of them are country-specific and only applicable in particular political, legal and cultural environments, others could be applied by librarians across borders. The review makes clear that income generation is difficult and requires skill. It also clearly outlines the potential incompatibilities between some income generation methods and the public library ethos.

Practical implications

The article raises important issues with regards to how practitioners should go about funding existing or new services. It becomes clear that librarians need a clear ethical position regarding how services can be provided and under which conditions services cannot be provided on the basis of principled reasoning.


A broad range of literature on income generation and public library ethos from various countries is reviewed and questions regarding how public librarians, on a practical level, can improve their institutions’ funding situation are discussed. This praxis-oriented discussion is connected to important ethical considerations that should come into play when devising an income generation strategy.



The author would like to thank Alan Poulter from the University of Strathclyde for his support.


Pautz, H. (2014), "Income generation in public libraries: potentials and pitfalls", Library Review, Vol. 63 No. 8/9, pp. 560-573.



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