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Grand County: How much are your libraries worth

Patrick Brower
Special to the Sky-Hi Daily News

Three hundred and sixteen dollars ($316).

That’s what I’m going to give to the Grand County Library District’s Mountain Libraries Capital Campaign as the critical March 1 fundraising deadline approaches.

How in the world, you might ask, did I come up with this number?

Well, rather than simply pulling a number out of the air, I decided to base my gift on the value of what the library gives to me each month. When I took the time to figure this out, I discovered that I get a lot more out of the library than I expected. I used to take what I get from the library for granted. Not anymore.

A total of $316 a month translates into $3,792 a year in benefits from the library. I couldn’t afford the annual value, so I picked the monthly value.

I challenge others in Grand County who use our libraries to do the same. Figure out the value you receive from the Grand County libraries each month and donate that amount back to the Capital Campaign. And if a month is too high, base it on two weeks or even one week.

The Capital Campaign is raising funds to help pay for the two new libraries in Grand Lake and Granby that were completed in 2006 at a cost of $6.2 million. So far individuals and entities have donated more than $2 million to this campaign. Additional donations of more than $350,000 are all that’s needed to reach the campaign goal.

This goal is important because when this figure is reached it assures the donation of $250,000 in generous challenge grants if the funds are donated by the March 1, 2008 deadline. (A total of $200,000 is from the Gates Family Foundation of Denver and $50,000 is from the Boettcher Foundation.)

With this deadline looming, I knew it was time for me to give again.

How did I come up with this figure? There is a method.

The Library Research Service can help you determine what you gain in services each month from your library. The calculator can be found at the Library Research Service web site. It’s enlightening. Go to

http://www.lrs.org/public/roi/usercalculator.php.

I figured the amounts based on how often my family uses the library system. I came up with average numbers.

For instance, our family borrows about eight books per month. That value came to $120.

We don’t borrow many magazines per month (I can barely keep up with the magazines I get at home) but we do check out videos and DVDs both in the children’s and adult categories. I figure we borrow about five per month. That value came to $20.

I know that we frequently use the interlibrary loans service. I guessed that at two times per month, which comes to a cost of $50.

I use the meeting rooms at the library for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s children’s special programs or maybe it’s board meetings of public entities in which I have an interest. I guessed that at two times a month.

Then there are the programs. Our children attend at least two programs per month (value of $12) and we have general reference questions, which I guessed at two, at a value of $14.

Add those up and I came up with a value of $316 that I get from the Grand County Library District each month. Wow! I never would have guessed the value as being that high.

But think about it. If I were to go out and buy those eight books, it would cost a pretty penny, even in paper back. If I were to order videos and DVDs on Netflix or at the video rental store, it would cost a lot. But even better, I have them right there in my library, at no charge. For rare and hard-to-find books, well, it goes without saying that tracking down books can be time-consuming and expensive. The library system’s interlibrary loans do it for me, for free.

Public entities need public meeting space and the library district can provide that space, saving each and every public entity from having that space themselves. That’s a savings.

And programs and classes for my children, especially at the preschool level, are priceless really. And the library provides them, at no charge.

Last but not least, the answers provided by our librarians to reference questions save time and hassle. And as we know, time is money. And hassle is frustration. The library saves me both. At no charge.

So there is real value each month. I’m giving that back – $316 worth.

You may be asking, “Don’t I already pay for the libraries through my property tax?”

A recent estimate of the median value of homes in Grand County is approximately $343,000. So the average homeowner pays $65.80 in property tax annually for library services. If your home is worth less than that, you pay even less. Furthermore, our Grand County Libraries received voter approval for 2.41 mills in 1995. And the library district has never asked for another penny. Not in the form of a mill increase or a special taxing bond issue to help pay for the incredibly modern yet warm and welcoming libraries and the multitude of library services we enjoy here.

But there’s more when figuring what your library is worth to you. And when considering a donation to the Mountain Libraries Campaign, keep this in mind. Figures provided again by the Colorado Library Research Service show that my personal return on investment to the Grand County Library district is $35.70. In other words, for every $1 in taxes I spend on my library, I receive $35.70 in return.

The return is excellent. I wish I could get back $ $35.70 for every dollar I invest in mutual funds or stocks.

So there you have it, every year I make an investment that pays excellent dividends above and beyond market values. And I’m going to bolster that investment with another $316 as a way to “give back” some of that value.

Yes, that donation is a good investment from a financial perspective.

But it’s also a good investment for me, my family, our local communities and the county.

Give today to the Mountain Libraries Campaign. Give back based on what you receive every month.

It’s worth it. Figure it out yourself, and you’ll see.


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