Not only is it FREE, but it is PRICELESS! For years, people have contemplated the value of a public library in their community. The fast math is easy to do. Let’s use approximate values of materials to calculate the savings from a library membership. Suppose we base our calculation on a family of four people, borrowing material in one month. This is what that value might look like:
8 hardcover books x $39.00 = $312.00
4 chapter books x $15.00 = $ 60.00
8 picture books x $23.00 = $184.00
8 DVDs x $20.00 = $ 60.00
2 Audio books x $45.00 = $ 90.00
4 magazines x $ 8.00 = $ 16.00
Total saved for one month $822.00
Now imagine if that family came to the library every month. They could save almost $10,000, or more, depending on what they borrowed, over the year. We know however, the savings don’t stop there. Chances are they may decide to use a computer or our free WiFi service. These have a value, but our visitors do not pay to use them. Some people drop in randomly to conquer the current jigsaw puzzle or participate in a book club and get caught up on the community’s current events. There aren’t any expected fees for that. Our public washroom does not require a purchase in-house before using it. Every library offers free library membership to their ratepayers and residents. (Non-resident fees may be charged if you have a library in your own community.)
Sometimes a service has a value that cannot be calculated in terms of money. For some, having a place to go where other people ‘hang out’, that does not have an admission or membership fee, can make quite a difference in their quality of life. The reduction of social isolation is a tremendous asset in any community. For years, libraries have been referred to as literacy equalizers. Regardless of your social status, economic position, level of education, etc., you are entitled to the same service as anyone else that comes through the door. With access to the Internet and to materials from libraries all over Ontario, through your local library; one has the opportunity to access an unlimited amount of information. Again, no charge, but a very valuable service.
Libraries have struggled for years to sustain a budget that support these and many more services. At budget time, the library competes not only with other cultural services supported by Council, but also with health care, policing, fires services and the municipality’s own infrastructure. Kudos to the council members that can see not only the monetary value of public library service, but also the impact of that qualitative value, as well. If you see the value in your public library, you too can be part of the library’s sustainability – get a library card. The number of users’ matter! Then, ask library staff how else you can help. At the public library, community engagement is our most priceless asset!
Submitted by Paige Turner