Libraries Are a Smart Investment

Ever wonder how much you receive in return for every $1 in taxes you spend on the Denver Public Library? Find out how much you're saving by using the Library Return on Investment Calculator. Keep reading to learn why libraries aren't going the way of the dinosaur any time soon; they're more relevant than ever!

Have you ever heard the question (or asked yourself), "Why do we need libraries when we have the Internet and eBook readers?" The Denver Public Library encourages you to share the following facts with your friends and family. During a recession, it's more important than ever that library services are known about and shared.

Who needs libraries in the age of the Internet?

Every time a public library adds an Internet computer, the use of everything else goes up: checkouts, visits, reference questions, coming to programs. Why do people use the Internet? To find information, entertainment, and social contact. All of those things go on in the library every day. One doesn't replace the other.

Traffic: have you tried to find a parking space lately? Libraries are anchor stores. Stats on library use: more people visited Colorado libraries (58 million) in 2004 than traveled through Denver International Airport (42.4 million). In 2004, Coloradans borrowed more items from libraries (96.5 million) than purchased Powerball tickets (80.4 million). Attendance at public library programs surpassed 1.4 million in 2004 -- equal to selling out Invesco Field at Mile High 20 times. Annually, there are more visits to libraries than all sporting events COMBINED.
In the state of Colorado, 2 out of 3 people have library cards.

The digital divide: not everybody has high speed Internet access at home. But increasingly, some things can ONLY be done on the Web. Libraries provide a bridge over the digital divide.

Libraries are community hubs. People meet there. Sometimes you just need to back away from the computer screen and talk to actual people.

Libraries are centers for early childhood literacy, offering live story times for the age when language makes a big difference in the development of the brain.

Library buildings provide free and quiet space, sanctuary.

Many business people use the library as a place to get started, use high speed Internet access to do research, or meet clients.

What's the effect of eBook readers – the Kindle, the Sony Reader, the iPad – on the public library?

Many libraries allow you the ability to download eBooks right now. The job of libraries is to promote literacy. Not everybody, right now, can afford a $200-500 device for everybody in the house. Some readers, like the Kindle, allow you to buy books immediately – but you can't give them to somebody else when you're done with them. And in fact, Amazon can take them back from you without your permission. Also, right now, libraries provide a lot of books to the community through book sales, donations, withdrawn materials. Going digital doesn't make materials accessible. We still need the cooperative purchasing agreement of the public library to make sure books – in whatever format – are available to ALL.

Written by lauriekm on October 11, 2010


Anonymous on October 12, 2010


Thank you for so clearly and eloquently answering this issue that keeps popping up. I'm SO TIRED of hearing it, now I have some ammo to shoot them down!

BobJones on October 13, 2010

In reply to by Jonie


Thank you for this post. I recently read a piece about libraries being a waste of tax payer money in Chicago here: I totally disagree with this notion and I think you described clearly why libraries are *still* necessary in our communities. The Chicago Public Library Commissioner responded to the same question. YES, libraries are still relevant, even in the age of digital books and information on the internet:

Anonymous on October 14, 2010


Great post. Thoughtful and articulate.

Penny Holguin on October 14, 2010


Many great points as to why Libraries are so valuable, especially now. Regarding the age of Internet and eBook readers, as a children's author advocating for children's literacy, I'd really like to make the point that VERY few parents will give their child an eReader. I'll never forget how excited I was when my daughter first began to crawl. Where did she go? Right to her book basket. And at 8, she's never stopped going there. Perhaps there will be a day when we use less paper and do most of our reading with a back light, but the day we discontinue printing books for children will be the day our next generation ceases to read.

Anonymous on October 15, 2010


Libraries are indeed a smart investment, but what has changed? In past generations they were places of education and reading enjoyment. Now the traditional library has been replaced as a video store and gaming center where one can while away the day playing video games on the internet and check out movies regardless of violence or sexual content. On the other hand, internet access is vital in the library setting for many of us who cannot afford a computer or internet access in the first place. As a taxpayer I feel patrons should have internet availability for legitimate educational, research and business needs, but why should I pay for on-line dating and gaming?

Already e-readers are less than $200. I wonder how much the library would save by loaning out one e-reader per patron vs the millions in multiple books that each library purchases from publishers. I would guess the savings to taxpayers would be substantial. The Denver library needs to do a much better job with the taxpayer resources it receives.


I am always surprised (and pleased) whenever I go to the library and see how many people are still using it as a place of reading enjoyment, browsing through books and magazines.
While it's true that some people use library computers for things like online dating, that seems a small price to pay for the freedom and privacy that we all have to freely use the library without someone looking over our shoulder.
Online games may seem trivial to some of us, but to others they are actually a way to communicate with other people and understand the world around us. (When the novel first became popular, it was regarded as a trivial waste of time :)
The idea of libraries checking out e-readers is very interesting and it will be fascinating to see what happens with that. But I suspect a conversion to using e-readers would actually cost more, at least the way things are now. The library would still have to buy multiple licenses for books, since even digital copies can only be 'checked out' to one patron at a time.
Right now digital books don't seem to be *that* much cheaper than physical versions. Even though there might be fewer physical infrastructure costs if there were fewer physical books, those would probably be replaced (and exceeded) by the IT costs of creating and maintaining the network to support such a large scale system. No such thing as a free lunch, unfortunately...when we talk about digital content it sort of seems like it must be cheaper if not free, because it's not 'real'...but IT and software can actually end up being more expensive than the physical alternatives.
Going fully digital might make sense if the library eliminated all the physical locations and staff. But we would lose access to so much if that happened: not everything is available in a digital format, and all the people who go to the library for internet access would suffer a huge loss.
I think the Denver Public Library is doing a good job of exploring ebooks and slowly building their offerings in this area, and probably learning a great deal about digital content delivery in the process, so that they'll be ready to expand in this area if it becomes feasible as a primary strategy.


Ummm, I think the original responder should read about Intellectual Freedom and what that means:

And review ALA's Library Bill of Rights:

I think the original poster is wrong for judging people for what they look at on their computers. People deserve access to the Internet without being judged. Libraries protect their privacy. This person is just wrong for "spying" on their personal business.

And regarding gaming, there are all kinds of intelligences (visual, spacial, social, etc etc). Many games increase these intelligences. The benefits of gaming are well documented. This poster is just judgmental and undereducated on these points.

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