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How Much is Your Library Worth to You?

In St. Lawrence County, our public libraries and branches serve a population of approximately 111,000 residents. We all pay for library services in some manner – primarily through our local municipalities, school districts, or special legislative districts. 

Have you ever thought about the value your local public library brings to your community and your family? Our communities benefit from libraries in many different capacities. Our libraries offer not only printed books and magazines, but newspapers, books on CD or tape, Blu-Ray or DVD videos, and so much more.

In addition to traditional materials, our libraries offer digital books and audiobooks that may be downloaded to your phone, iPad, or Kindle device. Our St. Lawrence County libraries also lend non-traditional items such as household and garden tools, cake pans, canning supplies, board games, jigsaw puzzles, fishing poles, discount museum passes, and wi-fi hotspots.

All of our libraries offer internet access and business services such as printing, copying, and faxing. A few libraries offer scanning, laminating, and 3-D printing. 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 early literacy programming for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. Libraries offer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and makerspace programs, book clubs, Lego clubs, music lessons, cooking classes, game days, puppet shows, musicians, movie nights, craft days, paint nights, informational lectures, and technology learning programs. 

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 – usually at a nominal cost on a per hour or daily basis. 

What value can you place on the library services you receive? There’s an online calculator at that helps quantify the dollar value of the library for those who use library services – whether you visit the library once yearly or multiple times weekly.  

With the average cost of a hardcover book at $17, an ebook at $15, a museum admission at $10, a magazine at $5, and a streaming movie at $4, it doesn’t take long to add up to a significant cost savings when you can borrow those items at the library. In St. Lawrence County, the average (mean) cost per person to support a library is $48, with the median cost per person equal to $37. Basically, the annual cost of the library per person is about the equivalent of two or three books per year, OR two movies a month from Redbox, OR an annual subscription to Sports Illustrated Magazine, OR one month of internet access. Regardless of which figure you utilize, the potential savings from using the public library can really add up!

Libraries are the center of many communities, providing a place where people of all ages meet, socialize, discuss, and share among themselves. Libraries educate residents not only on 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 where a single item (a book or even a laserjet printer) is used multiple times and shared by many households.

Take a few minutes and calculate the value of your library card, or visit your local library and check out what they have to offer!

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