You might have heard people claim that public libraries are good for the economy, and that they make good use of taxpayer dollars. Sounds like a great soundbite, right? But it’s more than that—it’s a fact that’s been proven time and again by serious economic studies. Let me share just a few:
Johnson County (Kan.) Library was studied by researchers from the School of Public Affairs & Administration at Kansas University in 2015. The result: “… every dollar invested in Johnson County Library gave residents direct and indirect benefits of about $4.13.” That’s a return on investment (ROI, in business speak) of 313%, which is huge.
The Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services commissioned ROI studies in 2004, 2008, and 2013. The most recent one was conducted by the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development at the University of West Florida. It found that the state’s 555 public libraries returned $10.18 of value for every $1 invested in them. As Florida’s Secretary of State explained in an article (http://on.tdo.com/1Tg9e9c): “This means that with nearly $500 million of public money invested into Florida public libraries during fiscal year 2012, over $5.55 billion was returned to Floridians in economic value. Public libraries have historically been places where families can learn, students can do research, and job seekers can find opportunities, and the money invested into these respected institutions is returned over ten-fold.”
Charlotte Mecklenburg (N.C.) Library was studied by the University of North Carolina–Charlotte Urban Institute in 2010. Here are some key findings: “For every $1.00 invested in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library from all sources, the community receives between $3.15 and $4.57 in direct benefits.” And this is even more impressive: “Survey data from over 1,200 respondents found that a household that takes advantage of all library services could benefit on average between $9,753 and $11,565 per year.” Wow!
The Santa Clara County (Calif.) Library District was studied in 2013 by BERK, a research firm based in Seattle, Wash. Researchers estimated that current SCCLD services were worth between $83 and $171 million in direct benefits. A Patch.com article (http://bit.ly/1QFnOju) reported: “Researchers calculated that for every dollar spent by the Library District, the community received between $2.50 and $5.17 in direct benefits.”
These studies and numbers aren’t the exceptions to the rule. Different organizations have researched library ROI with various methodologies, even in other countries, and have found similar results. The truth is that public libraries, with their job-search workshops, literacy classes, public computers, and free e-books, e-magazines, and e-music downloads, can provide hundreds of dollars’ worth of services to anyone who wants to use them. If you want to benefit from all this, simply go to your local library’s building (or website) and sign up for a card today.
You can feel secure in voting Yes for library funding issues, knowing that library managers are excellent stewards of your tax dollars. For every dollar you give them, you can reap all sorts of benefits and save lots of money, getting back five or even ten times more than you invest. Librarians don’t want to profit from you—they want you to profit from them.
By Kathy Dempsey