Did you ever wonder what how valuable libraries are to communities? This week, let’s take a look at some of the basic services libraries provide, and imagine a community where a library (gasp!) doesn’t exist. What would residents have to pay for those services in the absence of the library? Well, those are hard numbers to come up with, as libraries often provide valuable programs and services that are difficult to quantify. However, we have tried, and came up with this summary for the entire state. Many thanks to my colleague, Allana Novotny, for all of her assistance.
To summarize this handout a bit, we looked at the total local government revenue, or cost to taxpayers, and it should be noted that the library data we used is from the most recent annual public library survey, fiscal year 2019. Next, we looked at the population of the service areas of public libraries within the state, which is a bit less than the overall population of Nebraska, because there are some areas that are unserved by a public library. This gave us an annual cost to each taxpayer of $41. Finally, we looked at the number of times that things in the library were used (e.g. books, electronic books, Audiobooks, computers, and Wi-Fi uses) and assigned a conservative value to those things. For instance, if someone didn’t have access to a book and had to purchase it on their own, what would they typically have to pay for it.
It should be noted (as the handout mentions on page 2) that in addition to the things itemized, libraries provide numerous other programs and services that are valuable but difficult to quantify. While the handout lists the number of programs offered and attendees in FY2019, page 2 also lists a number of other things that libraries often provide that are valuable to the community, such as meeting room use, printing services, fax services, homework help, outreach services, makerspace equipment, reference services, magazines, and newspapers.