As town meeting approaches (March 17), you may be considering the costs and weighing the value of some town-supported functions. Take the library, for example. Public libraries carry considerable inherent value, by providing a free source of information and entertainment to all, and by serving as the cultural and social heart of the town. This is all well and good, but how much is the library worth to you in actual dollars, you ask?
Check out this handy-dandy calculator. It adds up the value of all the things you borrow. How much can you save by borrowing instead of buying? The dollars you save may surprise you. (You can guesstimate your usage, or you can log into your account through the online catalog and see your history.) The average American checks out 7 books and/or movies from their public library every year; to purchase those 7 items, it would cost approximately $150. If you’ve got a family of four, you could save more than $600 just by using the library — or to put it in terms that we New Englanders can really appreciate, more than 200 gallons of heating oil! None of this considers the cost of rentals from the likes of Netflix or Redbox, or the monthly access fees for streaming services, or the ever-increasing cable TV bill. The borrowing fees at Langdon Library are free. We don’t even charge late fines!
In fact, libraries are in fact among the most effective of all American public services. According to national averages, libraries serve more than 2/3 of the public, and they do so with less than 2 percent of all tax dollars! In 2011, Langdon Library served patrons over 8,000 times and constituted approximately 1.6% of Newington’s overall budget.
To many folks, libraries provide a value that can’t be quantified in dollars and cents — but it’s nice to know the math works, too, isn’t it? As always, we thank you for your support on March 17th, and all throughout the year.