November 21, 2017

Toledo Library Studies Return on Investment

Toledo-Lucas County, OH, Public Library conducted a study to calculate the library’s return on investment. The study computed the value of the library’s services in two different ways: by economic impact analysis, which yielded a figure of $118.3 million, and by adding up the value of the services provided by the library, which totaled $136.1 million. (The discrepancy is because the first method includes only direct effects; the second, both direct and indirect.)

The study, conducted by Dr. Oleg A. Smirnov, Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, The University of Toledo, found that the library’s return on investment is 2.86. In other words, every dollar invested in the library returns $2.86 worth of value to the community. That rate is comparable to other libraries around the country: According to the study, the ROI for Indiana Public Libraries is 2.38; for Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, PA, is 3.0; and for Cleveland Public Library in 2009, 2.7.

The study will help Toledo-Lucas make the case for a library levy on the ballot this November. If the levy doesn’t pass, library funding would be essentially cut in half.

Library spokesperson Rhonda B. Sewell told LJ that about two thirds of the $21-$23 million levy is a renewal of the existing levy; the rest “will be added to restore what users lost due to previous funding cuts,” Sewell said. Most of the cuts are in state aid, which has dropped from a high of nearly 75 percent of the library’s budget to only about 44 percent today. “In 2009, state aid was slashed by 17.8 percent,” said Sewell. “The library is now collecting almost the same amount of state funds it did in 1996.”

The Toledo-Lucas County library serves about 442,000 residents, 320,000 of whom are cardholders. The cost per resident for library services is currently about $32 per year.


Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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