How does the library save you money?

With the reality of decreasing sales tax revenues and perpetually underfunded maintenance costs, the Boulder Library Champions is trying to pass a district tax slated for the 2020 Ballot to secure reliable funding for the Boulder Public Library system. The proposed library district tax would roughly be a $220/ year property tax for owners of an $850,000 house. 

Is this expensive? To find out, I decided to see how the library saves my family money in several different ways.

1. Magazines:

Our family subscribes to 6 magazines a year.

The magazines are the New Yorker ($89.99/yr), the Economist ($189/yr), National Geographic  ($18.95/yr), Popular Science ($12/yr), Consumer Reports digital ($35/yr) and Cooks Illustrated ($9.65/yr).  

All of these magazines are available for free online through the library! The Economist’s most recent issue is limited to the first 25 patrons who sign on, but back issues are freely available. While it is often nice to curl up with a magazine and turn actual pages, the guilt from recycling a barely read Economist or New Yorker issue makes the library’s free option great for ‘green’ reasons as well. Total saved: $354.59.

2. Streaming Media

We have a basic Netflix subscription of ($119.4/yr). Through the library’s Kanopy subscription, you can stream up to 5 free films per month and through its Hoopla subscription, you can listen to up to 4 audiobooks, TV, music or movies per month.  Total saved: $119.4.

3. Meeting Space.

For my non-profit work, I need to reserve a room for 10 or so people to meet 2 times a year.

We usually meet for 2 hours each time so I would need to reserve 4 hours a year.  For reference, rooms can be rented at the North Boulder Rec. center for $35/ hr. Total saved: $140

4. Online Courses.

The library has an incredible variety of online courses one can take through services such as The Great Courses, Gale Courses and Creative Bug. 

Through Creative Bug, I am currently watching a watercolor painting series ($96/yr).

I am watching a History Series from the Great Courses ($226/yr) and am taking a Quickbooks tutorial through Gale Courses ($80/ course). Total saved: $402.

5. Books.  

Oh yes, and books. The other day I purchased Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book at Barnes and Noble for $20 (this was a discounted price) because I was discouraged by the number of holds that were placed on the copies at the Library. Stable funding should allow for more copies of popular books to be available.

I try not to purchase new releases but probably succumb to this 2 times a year. 

I will probably check out at least 10 books/year. 10 books x $20= $200. Total saved: $200

6.  Maker space

My son used the 3D printer in the newly created Maker Space several times last summer. I am interested in taking some of the classes offered there as well.

Tinkermill, a dedicated Maker Space in Longmont costs $75/ month for a family membership. The amount of time our family would use the Library Maker space would probably be equivalent to a month of Tinkermill time. Total: $75.

7. Safe space.

My son, a Boulder High School student, will occasionally meet me after at the Library if he has something to do after school and I can’t pick him up right away. It is wonderful that there is a quiet, safe place where he can study or read during this time.  Total: priceless!

Grand Total for our family: $1330.99

Assuming our house is about the average price for a house in Boulder, we would pay $220/year to the library if the tax passes. We are still getting more than $1110 in value from the library and there are many things that the library offers (help from librarians, concerts and events) that I did not include.

Although I have tried to put a price on the value of the library for our family, it is also the intangible, difficult to quantify elements that make the Boulder Public Library truly valuable.

Providing a safe, welcoming and peaceful space for everybody is a priceless asset that nurtures a sense of community that is vital for a growing city. In this way, the library is a treasured space, not unlike Boulder’s Open Space. As with our Open Space, it is time we protected the library with a dedicated District Property tax.