What is a Library Card Actually Worth?

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Maybe you’ve seen the meme that circulates Facebook every so often that hopes to compel the user to share an image that says something to the effect of “prove everyone wrong, share if you still use the library”. The fact that this even exists is sad. Libraries are such an important part of their communities. I will cover more reasons in a future post, but today I want to talk strictly money.

For the last year, I have had a card with a library across the state lines. This actually isn’t unusual. I live in southeastern Indiana and our local library is quite limited. I still go, of course. It is a great space and they have a unique collection. I’m also a fan of just hanging out in a cool space to read or work, libraries top that list. But for a larger selection, I have used the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County system for years. I have frequented their branches for over 20 years, thanks to my mom who saw the value of paying for a card outside our area.

Last year though, I was invited to a blogger’s tour of the Kenton County Library’s brand new STREAM Center. It’s an amazing maker’s space. My children and I attended together and we fell in love with the library. We signed up for a card that day (even though I overheard a rude comment about us doing just that from one of the library workers…yes, there will be a post about that soon, too).

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We love this branch and use it regularly. One of my favorite things is that at the bottom of every checkout printout, there is this wonderful little total that tells me just how much money that trip to the library saved us. As soon as I saw that the first time, I knew I would be saving those slips of paper and a blog post would be written.

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And that brings us to today. Before I tell you how many trips to this library we made and the grand total of money saved, let me make three disclaimers.

  1. I am human. If the numbers here seem unbelievable, know that they aren’t 100% accurate. This is only the total for the receipts I actually kept. I know for a fact that a few were tossed in the trash by an innocent party. So the totals are actually higher.
  2. I also realize that I would never have spent this total. I do the bulk of my book shopping (and it’s a lot…) on Amazon, at Half Price Books, Goodwill, yard sales, library sales, and on clearance shelves anywhere I find them. The other fact is that a lot of the books ended up not being for us, which actually makes me even more grateful for the library because I didn’t have to spend any money to find that out!
  3. Yes, I did have fines for items and realize that this diminishes the “savings” total. This library has a pretty phenomenal fine rate though, most items are just 10 cents per day. This is almost completely controllable, but sometimes I make mistakes with remembering to renew or we forget to grab a book that had to go back. I did find a record in my account and I paid just under $60 in fines last year, which amounts to around $5 per month. Also, yikes, I will work on keeping this down this year.

This is simply the total of trips that I have documented and the total retail value of the items we checked out. Ready to find out what those totals are?!

  • Total trips: 15
  • Total retail value: $3,016.18
  • Average savings per trip: $201.08
  • Lowest amount saved: $59.94 for 8 items
  • Highest amount saved: $481.55 for 30 items
  • Number of people using the library: 6

And this isn’t even the library we use most often! That one sees us regularly checking out 40 items. 😬 I wish they had this feature. Those numbers would knock your socks off!

So the next time someone brazenly states that libraries are outdated, send them this post so they can see that just because they aren’t taking advantage of the treasure trove that is the local library, doesn’t mean that no one else is!


About Vicki Arnold

Vicki Arnold is a happily married, homeschooling mama of four great kids. She's a big fan of books, reading, and libraries. It was this life-long passion that led to the creation of The Library Adventure. She also blogs at Simply Vicki about books, homeschooling, gardening, and hopes to encourage other Christian women in their walk with Christ. You can learn more about Vicki on her about page.

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