A new study from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute attempts to estimate the value of public libraries to Mecklenburg County residents.
At first glance, this appears to be a very promising study. A likely business model for Digital Storymakers would involve a partnership with a public library. A lot of the services such a social network site would provide are very library- or archive-like, i.e. hard to put a dollar amount on. So it was pretty exciting to read that “For every $1.00 invested in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library from all sources, the community receives between $3.15 and $4.57 in direct benefits.”
However, I was disappointed to learn that the study did not survey a random sample of Mecklenburg residents, but instead was an online survey of library users. This immediately calls into question the value of such findings as “an overwhelming majority of respondents view the library as an important educational resource (95.6 percent).” The only real question this begs is, “Why wasn’t it 100%?” I haven’t read the full report yet, but it will be interesting to see how they came up with a %400 ROI.