or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



The Cost (and Value) of Libraries

   April 10th, 2007

I liked Jessamyn's post about the high cost of everything. Databases are expensive, and intangible, which makes it trickier to justify them. But librarians are often challenged to justify our existence in general, and the burden is usually on us to convey to the public how valuable libraries are.

This talk about how much things cost reminded me of the Library Use Value Calculator. This tool lets patrons enter their library usage (how many books they check out, how many reference questions they ask, etc), and see a dollar figure of how much their library usage would cost them if they had to pay for it "retail."

The calculator we use started as a spreadsheet developed by the Massachusetts Library Association, which I then converted to javascript to be more interactive. The Maine State Library then approached me, asking if they could edit my code and make available a more accessibility-enabled version with installation instructions.

They did, and since then it has spread. Here's a list of library websites that either feature or link to the calculator (if I missed you, please include a link to your library in the comment section). Below that are a few other blogs and websites that mention the calculator, including Library Journal and PLA.

If you're a librarian and looking for a tool to justify your existence, this might be a way to give people actual numbers. Feel free to modify and reuse the calculator code yourself, and let me know if I can help - bherzog@mvlc.org.

Libraries using the Library Use Value Calculator

People talking about the Library Use Value Calculator

Again, If you're a librarian and looking for a tool to justify your existence, this might be a way to give people actual numbers. Feel free to modify and reuse the calculator code yourself, and let me know if I can help - bherzog@mvlc.org.

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4 Responses to “The Cost (and Value) of Libraries”

  1. jessamyn Says:

    We got a version of it up on the VLA website!

    http://www.vermontlibraries.org/value.html

  2. herzogbr Says:

    I found a few more libraries using the calculator:

  3. Roofing San Francisco Contractors Says:

    Very interesting site. I have bookmarked you.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    This post has been closed for comments (due to spam). If you’d like your library added here, please contact me at the email address above.