Every time a patron checks out a book or movie at the library he or she gets a receipt that shows how much money they’ve saved so far in the calendar year by borrowing rather than buying their materials.

We have some patrons who have saved thousands of dollars every year because they are consistent and regular users of library materials. These days, buying a new hardback book is a pretty hefty investment. If there’s no reason to buy, why not borrow?

Carolyn Manning, library director, has put together data from 2018 that shows that for every dollar spent to run the library, patrons received almost $9 each as a return on that investment. That figure is only about the money invested in the library through sales taxes collected in our district. It in no way counts the amount a patron saves in a year by borrowing rather than buying. Still, that’s a pretty good ROI. A lot of corporations and businesses would be perfectly happy with that.

Frankly, after looking at her data, I think Carolyn’s figures are actually pretty low. The ROI should be higher.

Libraries aren’t all about money, though. The ROI is priceless when you consider what libraries mean to a thriving democracy and an educated populace.