Million Dollar Savings Challenge

"Students 'saved' $459,000 so far this year by borrowing library books. If we project our data formula over the entire school year, the student 'savings' work out to $940,950! Will we reach $1,000,000? We might! Keep Reading!"

by Meg Berdan, Teacher-Librarian, W.H. Golding Middle School, , Cobleskill Richmondville School District, Cobleskill, NY

Just for fun, I used the Troy Public Library’s Library Use Value Calculator that NYLA is promoting for Advocacy Day evidence. The calculator determines the monetary value of the library resources (items and services) that a public library patron receives. It’s not a perfect match to apply to a public school library and our students, but it’s definitely an interesting exercise.

Applied to a fictitious middle school student who visits the library monthly, “Gina”   borrowed 2 books, requested 1 Interlibrary Loan, read 1 magazine, used the computer, accessed a database, asked the librarian for help, and attended one of the monthly meetings of Library Chess Club. Gina’s monthly benefit is $137, and her yearly benefit is $1,642. Adjusted to a 10 month school year, Gina’s actual yearly benefit is $1,370. In other words, if Gina had to purchase or subscribe to  these resources and services outside of her school library, she might spent about $1,370.

The calculator inspired a couple of ideas for advocacy at the school district level. For example, calculations for one average user, per grade, from pre-k through grade 12 (and perhaps a teacher-aide, a teacher, and an administrator) could be a powerful budget rationale. Infographics can also tell the library benefit story. However, with the factors of time-on-task, and an aversion to using student photographs (as suggested by NYLA), the best solution was to customize the calculator’s “Books Borrowed” category to suit my specific population of 413 middle school students.   Each grade has its own annual (September-June) projected benefit value based on their borrowing statistics (Follett Destiny Library Manager) from the first four months of school. By the end of this school year, we can estimate a total student “savings” of $940,950. Now, the challenge put to middle schoolers is to increase their reading to meet a combined student “savings” of $1,000,000.

The Cobleskill-Richmondville school district is a large, rural district that includes 15 towns. While the monetary “savings” derived from the benefit calculator might be seen by some to be tenuous, 52% of our school district’s students are economically disadvantaged. For many students, access to a wide selection of popular and appealing age-level reading materials is only possible at their school library.

On February 14th, students are invited to stop by the library to find out their personal library circulation statistics--and check out something to read-- as we kick off our Million Dollar Savings Challenge.