Libraries are often seen as a valuable community resource and their main purpose has always been to provide access to information. But with almost all information now available online, libraries are facing increasing pressure to remain relevant – and solvent.

That makes us wonder – how do libraries make money? Do they rely solely on government funding? Or do they generate revenue from other sources?

In this article, we will explore 11 different ways that libraries generate income. We will look at how they charge for services, how they sell products, and how they receive donations.

By understanding the many ways in which libraries bring in revenue, we can better appreciate the important role they play in our society!

How Do Libraries Make Money?

While most libraries are not self-sustaining, many have found ways to earn money and defray some of their costs.

Here are the 11 most common ways in which libraries make money:

  1. Government Funding
  2. Fees
  3. Product sales
  4. Donations
  5. Printing and photocopying services
  6. Internet services
  7. Space rental
  8. Cafes and bookstores
  9. Sponsorships
  10. Endowments
  11. Paid Events

Let’s look at each of these sources of funding more closely.

#1. Government Funding

The majority of libraries in the United States are funded by state and local governments. In some cases, the federal government will also provide funding for specific projects or initiatives. Libraries typically receive a mix of government funding sources, which can include taxes, bonds, and grants.

Government funding can also come in the form of direct financial support, which is often used to cover the operating costs of libraries. This funding is typically less stable than other sources, such as fees and product sales, and can fluctuate from year to year depending on the budget of the government entity.

#2. Fees

One way that libraries can make money is by charging fees for services. Many libraries charge a late fee for materials that are returned after the due date, and some also charge for printing and photocopying services.

Some libraries also offer premium memberships that come with additional benefits, such as access to exclusive events or discounts on products. These memberships typically cost a few hundred dollars per year and can provide a significant source of revenue for libraries.

In some cases, libraries will also charge fees for use of their facilities, such as meeting rooms or auditoriums.

We’ll cover some of these points later in this article.

#3. Product sales

Some libraries generate revenue by selling products, such as books, DVDs, and other materials. In many cases, these items are donated to the library and then sold at a reduced price.

Libraries may also sell other items, such as coffee mugs, tote bags, and t-shirts. These items are typically branded with the library’s name and logo and can be a great way to generate revenue and promote the library.

In some cases, libraries will also sell items that have been discarded or no longer needed, such as outdated books or furniture.

#4. Donations

Many libraries rely on donations from the community to help support their operations. These donations can come in the form of money, books, or other materials.

Donations are often used to fund specific projects or initiatives, such as the purchase of new books or the expansion of library facilities.

Local businesses and organizations may also donate money or materials to the library as a way to promote their products or services or as a way of giving back to the community. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that donations can be tax-deductible and provide a marketing opportunity as well!

#5. Printing and photocopying services

One way that libraries make money is by charging for printing and photocopying services. While many people have a printer at home, it’s not always convenient (or possible) to print large documents.

So, libraries offer this service for a small fee, which can add up quickly if when someone prints a lot of pages. This revenue can help offset the cost of printer ink and paper and can also be used to fund other library initiatives.

In some cases, libraries also offer scanning services for a fee. This can be helpful if for anyone who needs to make a digital copy of a document or photo.

#6. Internet services

Like printing and photocopying services, libraries also offer internet services for a small fee. This can be helpful for people who don’t have internet access at home or who need to use the internet for a specific task, such as job searching or online applications.

Many people prefer going to a library rather than going to an internet cafe because a library can be a more quiet place where to get work done.

In some cases, libraries will offer wireless internet access for a daily or hourly fee. This can be a great option for people who need to use the internet while on the go.

#7. Space rental

Libraries often have extra space that can be rented out for a variety of events, such as conferences, meetings, and company off-sites. This space can be a great source of revenue for libraries, and it can also help promote the library to new audiences.

In some cases, libraries will rent out meeting rooms or auditoriums on a regular basis. This can be a great way to generate income and also help support the library’s operations.

One of the best aspects of space rental is that there is no cost to the library to provide this service. It already has this space available, so it might as well make some money off of it!

#8. Cafes and bookstores

Some libraries have cafes or bookstores on-site, which can be a great way to generate additional revenue. These businesses typically sell coffee, snacks, and other food items, as well as books and other materials.

In some cases, these businesses are run by the library itself. In other cases, they are run by a third-party vendor. For instance, a bookstore that is having difficulty staying profitable in the age of Amazon may choose to open up a location in the library as a way to generate additional revenue.

Either way, they can be a great way to generate additional income for the library.

#9. Sponsorships

Libraries may also generate revenue through sponsorships. This can be a great way to raise money for specific projects or initiatives. For instance, a library may open a wing or section that is sponsored by a local business or organization.

In some cases, libraries will also accept sponsorships for specific events or programs. For example, the library could invite a local author to speak at an event that is sponsored by a book publisher.

#10. Endowments

An endowment is a sum of money that is given to the library with the intention of it being used as a long-term investment. The interest from this investment is typically used to support the library’s operations.

A wealthy individual or organization may set up an endowment for the library as a way to ensure its long-term viability.

#11. Paid events

A library could also generate revenue by charging for events. For example, the library could host a book club that meets on a monthly basis. The attendees would pay a small fee to cover the cost of the event.

Another example of a paid event is a lecture series. The library could invite a speaker to give a talk on a specific topic. The attendees would pay a fee to attend the event.


So, how do libraries make money? As you saw in this article there are many ways in which a library could generate income.

The most common of these is through government funding. Other sources include fees, product sales and donations. Libraries could also charge for printing, photocopying, and scanning services plus offer internet services.

They could rent out extra space and even open a cafe and bookstore (or allow a company to do so). And finally, there are sponsorships, endowments and paid events.