Have you ever thought about the value your local public library brings to your community? We all pay for library services in some manner – through federal, state, and local funding. In St. Lawrence County, the vast majority of library funding comes from local sources – through our towns, villages, school districts, or special legislative districts. So, what kind of value are you receiving for your money?
Our communities benefit from libraries every day as we strive to serve all residents in different capacities. As one would expect, all of our county libraries offer printed books and magazines for children, teens, and adults. Most libraries also have newspapers, books on CD or tape, and Blu-Ray or DVD videos available to borrow. If you’re looking for a specific title that isn’t at your local library, you can often borrow it through inter-library loan.
In addition to traditional materials, our libraries offer e-books, audio books, and e-magazines that can be downloaded to your phone, iPad, or Kindle device. Our St. Lawrence County libraries also lend non-traditional items such as tools, cake pans, canning supplies, board games, jigsaw puzzles, and fishing poles.
All of our libraries offer internet access and business services such as printing, copying, and faxing. Some libraries offer scanning, laminating, and 3-D printing. Kindles,Nooks, and assistive devices are available at a few libraries. Many visitors use the library as a resource for completing homework, accessing tutoring services, taking tests, writing resumes, and applying for jobs.
Our libraries are also social and educational resources in our communities. Many libraries offer a variety of programs that promote early literacy – we have baby, toddler, and pre-school story-time programs that feature a combination of music, reading, and craft projects. Libraries offer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and makerspace programs for tweens and teens, plus book clubs, Lego clubs, cooking classes, and board game days. In addition, some libraries host puppet shows, musicians, movie nights, reptile, and zoo program.
Adult activities often include book clubs, craft days, paint nights, informational lectures, and computer learning programs. Several libraries lend discount passes to area museums. Many libraries have conference or community rooms that can seat anywhere from a dozen to one hundred people – some libraries offer space solely to non-profit community groups and some rent space for private parties and events.
What value can you place on the services you receive? There’s an online calculator at http://www.ilovelibraries.org/what-libraries-do/calculator that helps quantify the dollar value of the library for those who use library services – whether as a frequent or infrequent user.
To give an example, a family of four can save a minimum of $2,408 a year just by visiting the library once a week. How are they saving that much money? Imagine this: one adult borrows a book a month, the second adult borrows one magazine a month, each child borrows a book a week, the family borrows a DVD once a week, and the kids attend a monthly youth program. Considering the cost of an average hardback book ($17), a magazine ($5), a downloadable movie ($4), and an hour of entertainment ($7), the potential savings earned with a library card adds up quickly!
Even those who never visit the library benefit from its services. Libraries are the hub of community-building where people of all ages meet, socialize, discuss, and share among themselves. Libraries educate residents on not only academic topics, but on social and political issues. Libraries are a great equalizer in bringing information and resources to all people, and libraries are champions of information access and intellectual freedom. By sharing materials, libraries are economically efficient with a high return on investment (ROI) where a single item (a book or even a fax machine) is used multiple times and shared by many households. Libraries benefit everyone in our community through direct or indirect means.
I challenge you to calculate the value of your library card, or to visit your local library and see what it has to offer. There’s a lot to gain from just checking us out!