The Library Saved Me $1390.81 in 2011

I believe in libraries. I think that they are integral to communities. I also think they are under-used and under-appreciated by many in their communities. In an effort to show, in hard cash, how valuable your local library can be, each year I sit down and I do math. (It seems that I may have missed 2010. Oops!) Since I started doing this my yearly number has never been less than $1000. Think about it. What would you do with an extra $1000 in your pocket?

So how do I do it? Well, I could just refer you my post on how the library saved me $1239.27 in 2009 but I've got you here right now so why send you away?

I track my books. Last year I started using Goodreads, which made it easier to track things on the fly but it doesn't do everything I want it to do. So I still keep a spreadsheet which I cross-reference against my Goodreads account to make sure I've got all my books aligned. In my spreadsheet I have a column for "source." If the book I finished reading came from the library I just made a note of it in that column. Easy! Then I just find out the cost of the book, add it up and I have a big old number staring at me.

Piggy Bank
Credit: Alan Cleaver
 

But here's the thing about books -- they have different prices everywhere you look. I can get a different price on Amazon.com versus Amazon.ca even. I also get a different price if I go into my local Chapters or if I buy from their online site. So how I decide what price to use? I go the easy route and use the cover price. I know, what you are going to say -- no one ever pays the cover price. You're wrong. (You're also probably not shopping at local independent bookstores where they need to charge the cover price.) I also match formats. If I read the e-book, I grab the e-book price. Ditto hardcover, paperback, audio, etc.

There are, of course, other ways to calculate it. As I mentioned in my very first post on this topic in 2008, there are tools that you can use. The Maine State Library is just one of many that have a Library Use Value Calculator. Their calculator has me coming in at $1211. That is somewhat approximate because I had a make a guess about what they considered a children's book. It may seem like my math is off when you look at that number but once you take into consideration the price difference between books in Canada and the US (ie. we pay more) the math is close. My calculation of $1390.81 is pretty solid. It's also grossly inaccurate.

By saying that the library saved me $1390.81 I am lying. Blatantly. Yet I still stand by my math. Confused yet?

You see, the library actually saved me much MORE than $1390.81. When I was doing my calculations I only counted the books I actually finished reading.

That amount does not take into consideration all the books I check out and do not read. One reason I don't read books I check out is time constraints but that's not the only reason. Some of those books are ones that I thought sounded interesting but in reality were not my cup of tea. It does not take into account books I check out for reference purposes. It does not include any magazines I check out or the guidebooks I use to help plan our vacations. It doesn't take into account the various databases and online services that normally exist behind a paywall but that my library card allows me to access.

My calculations do not take into the account the museum pass I borrowed that granted my husband and I free admission to a local museum. (Ok, yes I spent more than we would have paid in admission in the museum gift shop but let's be honest -- I would have done that anyway.)

It does not include the many DVDs we borrowed from the library over the year. We have borrowed everything from documentaries to new Hollywood releases to an entire season of Dr. Who. (We're on the waiting list for more Dr. Who. It's a long waiting list.)

Yes, the Ottawa Public Library saved me $1390.81 in 2011 but really, it saved me much, much more.

How much could your library save you?