Library Use & Return on Investment Value Calculator

What is your library worth to you?

We know you value the services and resources provided by your public library, but just how much are those services worth? How much would you pay out-of-pocket if the library didn’t exist, or if these services and resources weren’t available at no cost?


Take a moment and reflect on your library use over the past month, then plug those numbers into the form below. This page will calculate a total value related to the items you checked out and the services and resources you used. It also calculates a “return on investment” that is based on the per capita library expenditures in your community. (Note: If you do not live in a community with a public library, the return on investment calculated by this form will most likely be under-valued. If you live in a community with a public library, but choose to use a library in another community, the return on investment calculated by this form may not be accurate.)


To use this form:

  • Enter in the left hand column the number of times per month you or your family use each service.
  • Estimated retail value of each service will be calculated on the right.
  • Total value of your library use is shown at the bottom of the worksheet.
  • Your return on investment for each $1 of taxes paid also will be calculated.
  • Tip: Tab between entries and do not use commas.


Please enter the number of times you use the following library services each month
Your Use
Library Materials & Services Value of


For every $1.00 in taxes you spend on your library,
you receive $___ of value in return*


*Where did these numbers come from? —
Per capita expenditures were collected from Wisconsin’s 2012 Public Library Statistics, compiled by the State Division for Libraries & Technology (DLT). The return on investment is calculated by dividing each library’s annual per capita expenditure by 12 (the number of months) to get a monthly per capita expenditure. The formula then divides the total value received each month by the monthly per capita expenditure.


This calculator is an adaptation of projects by the Maine State Library and Library Research Service, a unit of the Colorado State Library and the Colorado Department of Education that is operated in partnership with the Library and Information Science (LIS) Program, Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver.