Recent calculations by Woodstock Library Director Jessica Kerr show, she said, that the library provides a 612 percent return on investment to the community through the services it offers.
Kerr, with the help of bookkeepers and the New York Library Association Library Value Calculator, quantified items such as the total value of the library’s collections, programming, use of electronic content and computer usage to come up with the value. For every dollar spent on the library, according to her calculations, a $5.95 value is returned in services. When the community at-large is included, that value rises to $7.12 per dollar spent, or $716.86 per person.
Kerr said the figures are not meant to be a final word but the start of a conversation about the library’s importance. She said any publicly traded company that has a 612 percent return on investment would be an incredible value. “I think everyone in our community could find something they could spend $640-715 on that would help make their life easier,” she said.
Tangible things like books and computer use can be assigned a number, but not everything can. “I don’t know how to put a value on a grandmother printing out pictures of her new grandchild that was just born in Japan that she’s not going to see until they visit next year,” she said. “How do you estimate the value of the assistance with a patron’s job search and resumé uploading who is now happily employed. Or the friendships that are created at book club or the knitting group.”
Kerr said she doesn’t know how to put a value on a young person’s curiosity. “They can come here and find a book on whatever they are into that week, be it a triceratops, weather patterns, trucks or princesses. Then after watching that young person take out 20 books a week for five years, they have graduated high school, received scholarships and gone off to college, and spend last summer break in New York City studying the bacteria of river fish.”
Said Kerr, “I don’t know the value of these things, but I do know that I get stopped on the street, in the grocery store and at the apothecary because someone wanted to say, ‘I got so much help at the library and I really appreciated (it).’ It means something to people. It matters. Sometimes the library is the only chance a person has of getting help with what they need. Some people don’t have the support system of the finances that you or I might have the privilege to enjoy. I think we can all agree that all of these things have a value higher than what a dollar amount could easily attest to being.
“If you haven’t had to cancel your cell service or get a cheaper plan, just to have a flip phone, or not have one at all; if you haven’t been one of the hundreds of people going to The Table each week, if you haven’t had to choose between paying the electric bill and the heat, then maybe you aren’t listening to out community. Maybe you don’t understand.”
Kerr is willing to share her calculations with anyone and go over them line by line.
Patrons can see what their individual usage is valued at by going to http://www.ala.org/advocacy/library-value-calculator.
Kerr’s ROI study is available at http://www.woodstock.org/about-us/.