I spent time today working in a public library. I do that most days and love it. When I got up this morning I read news about libraries closing in Oregon. Voters didn’t approve the support needed to keep Douglas County Libraries open and with the loss of timber revenue, the libraries closed today. The main library (which has already faced hours reductions) closes next month. Even as Pew Research Center reported that 66% of Americans felt that closing the public library would have a major impact on their community.
Here’s a simple ROI calculation:
I’m reading Visitor by C. J. Cherryh. The book costs $26.00. How much does it cost for me to check out from the library? $0.00.
Except that’s not true, is it? Because community members do pay for the library (unless they live in Douglas County). If the community agrees to pool their resources, each paying a small amount (averaging $7.25/month in my library), then anyone can come in and borrow materials. And do they?
Today I worked in the Winlock Timberland Library. In February residents borrowed material valued at over $104,000 dollars in this single small town library. For many of our libraries, it only takes a couple months to save residents enough money to equal the library expenditures for the year! Over the course of the year, they’ll continue to save residents even more. A month of library service costs a resident less than a Netflix subscription and offers movies, talking books, books, e-books, music, internet, WiFi, printing, and programs for everyone from children to job-seekers. The ROI figure above only includes borrowing material—not all the other services, so the actual figure is even higher!
On top of that, the library champions intellectual freedom, privacy, free speech, and protects the confidentiality of residents. While Congress votes to sell your browsing history, the library provides residents a private way to get online.
How many investments provide that sort of return?
Of course, I’ve been a lifetime library user and have worked in libraries since being a teacher’s assistant in my school library. Biased? You bet! My opinions on this blog are only my own. I’m not writing this in my position as an employee of Timberland Regional Library. I’m writing this as a citizen concerned with our intellectual freedom, privacy, free speech, and the future of our country. Every day I have the privilege of seeing people of all ages visiting the library, borrowing material, using the computers, reading newspapers, finding jobs, coding, and so much more. I see the impacts the library has on the lives of our residents, the opportunities it offers.