by Joanne Roukens, MLS

What is the value of a library? In partnership with the New Jersey State Library, the Highlands Regional Library Cooperative has created a “Valuing Libraries Toolkit.” A simple method to quickly calculate a library's return on investment and demonstrate its value.

Since 2006 we have been conducting a series of workshops called Valuing Libraries: demonstrating the contributions libraries make to their communities. The purpose is to help libraries develop powerful strategies for communicating what they offer their community or organization in terms of both quality of life and return on investment. Along with other resources, the workshops use materials from the WebJunction “Demonstrating Impact” documents.

Our funders speak in the language of numbers. We must do so too. We must step up, draw attention to ourselves and say “Hey! Look at what we do and look how much value we provide!” The workshops focus on strategies and resources for qualifying and quantifying impact. We also work through creating a “value proposition” for each library and provide a template for producing a simple return on investment calculation. By the end of the workshop, participants are much more comfortable "pitching" their library story, making written and verbal cases to funders and stakeholders, giving a 1-3 minute "elevator speech," and making a 10 minute presentation about their library’s value and impact.

Over 230 participants representing 104 libraries attended the original two-part workshops in New Jersey. Since then special one-day, school and trustee versions have been created and presented. We’ve also taken the show on the road. The Valuing Libraries workshops have been conducted in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas (for the North Texas Regional Library System!), New York, Ohio and Florida.

The resources in the “Valuing Libraries Toolkit” are available on our website for anyone to use and share. Just go to

If we don’t make the case for libraries, who will?

Joanne P. Roukens is the Executive Director of the Highlands Regional Library Cooperative in Denville, New Jersey. Visit their website


Original Publication Date: 
January 1, 2009
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