News - MLA
Wednesday, March 27, 2024 12:00 AM

Note From Debbie

March 28, 2024

How do you show your community your value and importance? How do you know your local libraries have impact? How do you document the economic benefits, the educational benefits, the social benefits and the health and well-being benefits that your library contributes into making your community the thriving and dynamic places that they are? 

As Kate Pohjola Andrade from the Woodlands Library Cooperative stated at our most recent Advocacy Hour, collecting appropriate data is the key to knowing the answer to any of these questions – from a national, statewide or local perspective. 

On a federal level, we are thankful for the data provided and collected by the American Library Association

From a statewide angle, the Library of Michigan, Michigan Library Cooperatives and MLA are collecting the kind of data that you may find amazing.  

Hopefully you all take an hour or two to digest the most current State Aid Reports and all the tabs that get you exactly what you might be looking for (to be honest, MLA sends a lot of trustees to this site to do salary and benefit comparisons for new directors.) Learn more at

Just last year, MLA did a statistically valid statewide poll of 800 voters. A few of the general data findings include:

  • 71% solid majority of all respondents gave local public libraries in Michigan a positive rating for the job they are doing providing programs, services and a diverse, quality collection of books and other materials to their library patrons. A 79% majority of Democrats, 68% of Independents and 65% of Republicans offer a positive job rating.  
  • A 57% majority of all respondent households use the programs and services of their local public library at least, “a few times a year.”
  • A 77% solid majority of all respondents agreed that “local public libraries should have a diverse collection of books and reading materials that represents the community and the world around us.” 

But at the local level, how do you know the return on investment (ROI) that your public library has when valuing the crucial role they play in serving as vital hubs of education, culture, and social engagement? How do we know that citizens love our library? 

First and foremost, we can guarantee that these questions can be answered very simply: it is evident in your local citizens active participation at your library, in their advocating on behalf of the library in challenging times, and probably most important through their VOTE to fund a local library millage. Close to $430 Million dollars is currently approved in communities large and small by voters in the state of Michigan to fund their local libraries. What can we derive from that?

  • Millages are the lifeblood of Michigan Public Libraries. Some people believe libraries are mostly funded by things like donations or book sales but that is not the case. 
  • Libraries are essential to the fabric of our communities. Statewide, 85% of local library funding comes from millages voted for by local communities. Local voters choose to fund local libraries!
  • Michigan's libraries are vital hubs of learning and enrichment, fostering community connections and fostering lifelong learning. Local funding from millages, ensures libraries remain vibrant resources accessible to all!

So where can you get the data for your local library to prove to the citizens of your community that their hard earned money that goes to fund a local millage has the kind of ROI that shows value and importance? 

We are sure there are others, but we wanted to point you to a resource that we have been given permission to share from the Ohio Library Council. Their recently updated Return on Investment calculator (2023) is a valuable tool available to libraries. Note, some of the information is outdated but will updated later this year. The ROI Calculator is in an Excel spreadsheet to be completed by a library and includes instructions on how to complete the calculator, an explanation of what the ROI figures mean, and notes on the pricing and cost assumptions. View a tutorial on how to use the calculator

Download the ROI Calculator

Public libraries are valued not only for their tangible benefits but also for the intangible contributions they make to the social fabric, cultural identity, and quality of life within the community. Their mission to provide access to information and knowledge; support for literacy and education; provide cultural enrichment and community engagement; provide digital inclusion and technological access; serve as community spaces and social connections; preserve local history and heritage; and contribute to the local economy by supporting workforce development and entrepreneurship initiatives through their contribution. When you can provide your value in data form and a citizen can provide the story of how the library has transformed their family’s lives – it is a powerful message.

Always remember – no data without a story, no story without data.  

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Deborah E. Mikula
Executive Director


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