Thanks. Some valuable evidence here, and it raises the question of how to use the ROI results to…
Christoph Berendes

Hello Christoph,

Your example brings up a number of steps for how I imagine specifying concrete savings could happen:

  1. Focus on a specific library service: Free access to or some other online service, book lending, in-person job skills training, etc.
  2. Companies or government departments would need to audit their spending to see if they are doing something that the already library offers (for example, if a government department pays for subscriptions for their staff, why not just have staff get library cards and cancel the subscriptions. Immediately and obviously a concrete savings is realized). Training and market research would be primary areas of focus. The library could help with this process.
  3. Since privacy is a fundamental library value, workers would have to voluntarily disclose ways they are using/not using the library — the value of their use can be quantified in a straightforward way. Especially if something they learned using library resources is essential to their job.
  4. Basic user research of library patrons through surveys, phone calls, etc. would be a fairly standard way of seeing an actual and concrete ROI, rather than a theoretical one. But that costs money to do, and most libraries don’t have extra to spend.

Freelancers would be a good group to explore when it comes to a library’s ROI. Since workspace/wifi access/and skills training are not so difficult to quantify. For example, before I was a librarian, one of my jobs was as a freelance Computer Consultant. After taking a couple of free Gale Courses through the library on how to program Content Management Systems, I turned around and made a simple one for a client, and followed that up by customizing some WordPress sites for others. Overall, the presence of those courses from the library, plus the time I spent getting through them, allowed me to earn thousands of dollars. In that situation, I’m not sure what my exact ROI was, but it’s definitely substantially higher then $5 for every $1 spent on library service.