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Return on Investment (ROI) for Libraries

Demonstrating Value and Importance

As libraries continue to play a crucial role in our communities, it’s essential to demonstrate their value and importance. How do we know that local libraries have an impact? How can we quantify the economic, educational, social, and health benefits they provide? Data collection and analysis can help us answer these questions! View our March 2024 Advocacy Hour Dedicated to Data: 


National and Statewide Perspectives

Key Findings from MLA’s Statewide Poll

MLA conducted a statistically valid statewide poll of 800 voters, revealing important insights. Learn more

  1. Positive Ratings: A solid majority (71%) of respondents rated local public libraries positively for providing diverse programs, services, and quality collections. This sentiment cut across party lines, with Democrats (79%), Independents (68%), and Republicans (65%) offering positive job ratings.

  2. Library Usage: Approximately 57% of respondent households use library programs and services at least a few times a year.

  3. Diverse Collections: An overwhelming 77% of respondents agreed that local public libraries should maintain diverse collections representing the community and the world.

Understanding ROI Locally

But how do we measure the ROI of public libraries at the local level? Here are some key points:

  1. Active Participation: Evidence of ROI lies in local citizens’ active participation at the library. Their engagement during challenging times and advocacy efforts speak volumes.

  2. Voting for Millages: Citizens’ votes to fund local library millages provide a clear indicator of library value. In Michigan, voters have approved close to $430 million to support local libraries.

  3. The Role of Millages: Millages are the lifeblood of Michigan Public Libraries. Contrary to common misconceptions, libraries rely heavily on millages (85% of local library funding) chosen by local communities.

  4. Vital Hubs: Michigan’s libraries serve as vital hubs for learning, enrichment, and community connections. Millage funding ensures that libraries remain accessible resources for all.

Accessing ROI Data

To demonstrate the ROI of your local library, consider using the Return on Investment calculator tools. We are sure there are others, but we wanted to point you to a resource that we have been given permission to share from the Ohio Library Council. Their recently updated Return on Investment calculator (2023) is a valuable tool available to libraries. Note, some of the information is outdated but will updated later this year. The ROI Calculator is in an Excel spreadsheet to be completed by a library and includes instructions on how to complete the calculator, an explanation of what the ROI figures mean, and notes on the pricing and cost assumptions. View a tutorial on how to use the calculator

Download the ROI Calculator

The Power of Data and Stories

Remember this fundamental truth: no data without a story, no story without data. While statistics and metrics provide a quantitative view of library impact, personal narratives amplify their significance. When citizens share how the library transformed their lives—whether through education, inspiration, or connection—it resonates deeply. Citizens’ support and engagement ultimately reflect the library’s true value. 

Public libraries play a multifaceted role in our communities, contributing not only tangible benefits but also intangible value. Libraries impact our social fabric, cultural identity, and overall quality of life:

Tangible Benefits:

  1. Access to Information and Knowledge:

    • Libraries provide a wealth of resources, from books to digital databases, empowering individuals to learn, explore, and grow.
    • Literacy programs, workshops, and educational materials enhance community members’ skills and knowledge.
  2. Cultural Enrichment and Community Engagement:

    • Libraries host events, exhibits, and cultural programs that celebrate diversity, foster creativity, and bring people together.
    • They serve as platforms for dialogue, promoting understanding and unity.
  3. Digital Inclusion and Technological Access:

    • In an increasingly digital world, libraries bridge the digital divide by offering free internet access, computer use, and technology training.
    • They empower citizens to participate in the digital age.
  4. Preserving Local History and Heritage:

    • Archives, local history collections, and genealogical resources ensure that community stories are safeguarded for future generations.
    • Libraries connect people to their roots and shared heritage.
  5. Contributing to the Local Economy:

    • Libraries support workforce development by providing job-seeking resources, career guidance, and small business support.
    • Entrepreneurship initiatives thrive with library assistance.

Intangible Contributions:

  1. Social Fabric and Community Spaces:

    • Libraries serve as safe, welcoming spaces where people gather, interact, and build relationships.
    • Community events, book clubs, and workshops strengthen social bonds.
  2. Cultural Identity and Quality of Life:

    • Libraries celebrate local culture, history, and traditions, reinforcing community pride.
    • Their presence enhances residents’ overall well-being and happiness.




Uniting the Michigan Library Community

MLA is proud to partner with organizations serving the library community.

Friends of Michigan Libraries logo