The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) released a study which found that in 2011 alone, the economic benefit from Texas public libraries totaled $2.407 billion. Collectively the libraries cost less than $0.545 billion, for a return on investment of $4.42 for each dollar spent.
The study, which was prepared by the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Texas at Austin, draws on two quantitative analyses: one of Texas public libraries as business and organizational entities and the other of services rendered. The business analysis found that libraries produced $1.043 billion in local economic activity. Notably, this analysis alone indicates that Texas libraries bring in twice as much as they cost. However, the companion service analysis examined the circulation of materials, access to computers and the Internet, programs, and other services, and produced an additional estimated total value of $1.364 billion.
In addition to the state-wide results, the report includes case studies of 14 individual libraries, ranging from one that serves a population of 3,807 to one that serves 1,757,728. Case profiles of services and collaborations were also included. Among the more unusual services provided were an exhibit of African hunting artifacts, a puppet loft, a “Cowboys and Computers” class targeting local farm workers, hosting the development of the popular Words with Friends iPhone app, and Southlake, TX’s innovative Virtual Branch program.
Though the study itself only measured 2011, “there is no reason to think that the ROI figure of $4.42 will decline appreciably,” said Dr. James Jarrett, the study’s principal investigator. “If anything, the figure might increase.” That increase would come from better measurements of some services already provided, such as the use of materials at the library that are not checked out, from estimating the monetary value of the benefits of library training programs, and from including new services, such as hosting tutoring by private individuals.