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Local Libraries' ROI Valued at 400 Percent

A new study shows that the Santa Clara County Library District is among the top 100 in the nation.

The Santa Clara County Library District serves the community a mountain of valuable ways.
The Santa Clara County Library District serves the community a mountain of valuable ways.

Written by the Santa Clara County Public Affairs Office:

A recent independent study revealed just how valuable the Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) is to the cities it serves. Commissioned by the District and funded by the Cupertino Library Foundation, the study revealed a return on investment for local residents as high as 400 percent.

“The Cupertino Library Foundation was very pleased to support an independent, objective analysis of the economic value of library services,” said Eno Schmidt, President of the Cupertino Library Foundation. “While we are all library lovers who intrinsically appreciate the District’s contributions to enhancing early literacy, promoting lifelong learning, and other areas of community benefit, it’s very exciting to see such a high return on investment calculation that demonstrates the difference Santa Clara County Library District makes in people’s lives.”   

The Return on Investment Study was conducted by BERK, a research firm based in Seattle, Washington. Researchers estimated that current District Library services are worth between $83 and $171 million in direct benefits. To calculate the return on taxpayer investment, only easily measured quantifiable items were used by BERK researchers. Items included direct library services such as the number of print and non-print materials borrowed by library users, the number of children’s, teen and adult programs offered at District libraries, and user access to technology and reference services. After a valuation was placed on these direct services, this number was then divided by SCCLD’s operating expenditures in fiscal year 2011-2012 ($33.2 million). 

Researchers calculated that for every dollar spent by the Library District, the community received between $2.50 and $5.17 in direct benefits.

“Let’s not underestimate the important economic role of the Santa Clara County Library District’s community libraries,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian, Delegate for the County Library District Joint Powers Authority. “Not only are they a great resource for adults, they enhance early literacy, which improves the prospects for lifelong success — a benefit to the individual and the community.” 

The study also included interviews with key community stakeholders who identified broader community benefits derived from District libraries, such as library users’ increased academic, career and personal achievements resulting from the life-long use of library resources. Stakeholder interviews identified five key community benefits derived from library services: early literacy and youth education, public access to information and technology, personal recreation and quality of life, lifelong learning and personal growth, and building and bridging diverse communities.  

When these types of intangible benefits are factored in with quantified benefits, SCCLD communities garner an even higher return on investment. Stakeholders also noted that access to library resources improved health outcomes and reduced medical costs to both individuals and society.

Located in the midst of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara County Library District is committed to providing residents with the latest in new technology. Many District residents still rely on community libraries for access to computer resources and free Internet services. SCCLD offers free computer usage for cardholders and free wireless access for all visitors, and an impressive collection of electronic resources and databases.  

People of all ages rely on SCCLD resources. A wide range of early literacy and reading programs are available at each community library to support families and local public and private schools. The Reading Program helps improves reading, writing, and literacy skills; electronic resources on the Library’s web site facilitate writing resumes and searching for jobs. Older adults benefit from valuable District resources, including the PlaneTree Health Information Center for reliable health and medical information.

“Many of these community benefits are extremely important but were not calculated as part of the study because they cannot be easily quantified,” said City of Campbell Council Member Jason Baker, vice chair of the SCCLD JPA Board. “All of these services directly promote lifelong learning and personal growth and help bridge gaps between diverse communities. If we could quantify these benefits, the return on investment figure would be even higher. This study shows that owning a Santa Clara County Library District library card is definitely the best deal in town.”

To learn more about the Return on Investment Study, visit www.sccl.org. Contact the following Community Librarians to learn about resources and programs at each community library:

Campbell Library:  Cheryl Houts - (408) 866-1991 ext. 3200

Cupertino Library: Cynthia Wilson - (408) 446-1677 ext. 3300

Gilroy Library: Lani Yoshimura - (408) 842-8207 ext. 3400

Los Altos and Woodland Libraries: Jane Cronkhite - (650) 948-7683 ext. 3500

Milpitas Library: Linda Arbaugh - (408) 262-1171 ext. 3600

Morgan Hill Library: Peggy Tomasso - (408) 779-3196 ext. 3700

Saratoga Library: Gayathri Kanth - (408) 867-6126 ext. 3800

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