Monday, March 06, 2006

Public Library Offers a Strong Return on Taxpayer Investment

The San Marino Public Library enhances the overall quality of life in San Marino, that’s true. But is the Library’s contribution entirely abstract? Can taxpayers’ return on investment in the Public Library be quantitatively measured, preferably in terms of cold, hard cash?

The answer is assuredly, yes.

First the Library purchases books and materials that it lends to users at no charge. In 2005, the Library bought over 3800 books, many of which were paid for by revenue generated by the Used Book Shoppe, run by volunteer Friends of the San Marino Public Library. If you consider that each of these books cost approximately $25 and circulated an average of 10 times, the Library saved its customers almost one million dollars last year on book costs alone.

The Pasadena FedEx Kinko’s charges between $15 and $24 per hour to use its computers. Library patrons use ours for free, often to find housing or employment. Last year, library users logged almost 5400 hours on our public access computers, This adds up to an over $150,000 annual value for our local populace. What is the value of having access to a Library computer and printer when yours is broken? Priceless.

Our patrons take advantage of the Library’s subscription to ValueLine, which they use to augment their personal fortunes while saving $850 each in annual subscription costs. They also consult our Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and Consumer Reports to enhance and preserve their capital holdings. Local business people use our California Manufacturers Register, the Directory of California Wholesalers and Service Companies, and the Million Dollar Directory to find company information that would otherwise cost them hundreds of dollars.

The Library also subscribes to twelve online databases, including full-text magazine and newspaper indexes that users can access from their homes and offices. Our customers not only save time, they save themselves the cost of photocopying!

Finally, the San Marino Public Library generates revenue, not only from fees collected and used books sold, but also in terms of investments from individuals. The Library has attracted nearly seven million in private sector pledges toward the construction of a public, government building, the first in San Marino in over fifty years. These private monies will benefit the whole community, generating substantial educational and financial returns for all San Marinans for decades to come. By any measure, that’s a generous return on investment!

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