Libraries provide an essential service to any community. They provide a place for people to gather and access information. But public libraries and private libraries are fundamentally different. Public libraries often are publicly funded, not-for-profit institutions whereas private libraries exist for profit.

So, how do private libraries make money?

There are many ways that private libraries can generate revenue, and in this article, we will discuss five of them.

Private libraries can charge membership fees, rent out their space for events, sell books and other materials, host fee-based events, and receive donations from individuals and organizations. By utilizing multiple sources of revenue, private libraries can be successful and thrive.

Let’s dive in.

How Do Private Libraries Make Money?

Private libraries make money in a few different ways:

  1. Membership Fees
  2. Rental Income
  3. Sales
  4. Fee-based Events
  5. Donations

#1. Membership Fees

A private library can charge membership fees to help generate revenue. This is often a key difference between how a private library earns revenue and how a public library makes money. Public libraries have access to public funding which private libraries may not.

There are two main types of membership fees: annual and lifetime. Annual membership fees are paid yearly and typically provide access to the library’s resources for one year. Lifetime membership fees are a one-time payment that provides access to the library’s resources for as long as the library is in operation.

Membership fees can be a great source of revenue for private libraries because they provide a steady stream of income that can be used to cover the library’s operating costs. In addition, membership fees typically increase over time as the cost of living increases. This allows private libraries to keep up with their expenses and maintain their profitability.

It is important to note that private libraries typically charge higher membership fees than public libraries. This is because private libraries are not supported by taxpayer dollars and need to generate enough revenue to cover their operating costs.

The membership fee structure of a private library will vary depending on the size and scope of the library. For example, a small private library that only has a few thousand books may charge an annual membership fee of $50, whereas a larger private library that has tens of thousands of books, including rare books, could charge an annual membership fee that’s much more.

Private libraries typically offer different levels of memberships, with each level providing access to different resources and privileges. For example, a basic membership level may only provide access to the library’s physical books, whereas a higher-level membership may provide access to the library’s digital resources, events, and other special privileges.

#2. Rental Income

Private libraries can also generate income by renting out their space for events such as weddings, parties, conferences, and more. This is a great way to generate additional revenue and get the library’s name out there in the community.

Rental income can be a significant source of revenue for private libraries, especially if the library is located in a desirable location. For example, a private library that’s located in a historic building in the heart of downtown may be able to charge a high rental rate due to the demand for event space in that area.

Private libraries with substantial grounds may also be able to generate income by renting out their outdoor space for events such as festivals, concerts, and other large gatherings.

#3. Sales

Private libraries also generate revenue by selling books and other materials. Libraries typically sell items that are no longer needed or have been donated. Private libraries can also sell items that have been autographed by authors or have been rare finds.

Sales can also include the sale of library merchandise such as pens, tote bags, mouse pads, mugs, and more. Private libraries can also generate revenue by selling food and drinks at events.

Some private libraries also have cafes or small restaurants attached to them. This can be a great way to generate additional revenue and get people into the library.

#4. Fee-based Events

Many private libraries will host fee-based events such as author talks, book clubs, and other educational programs. These events typically require an admission fee or a membership fee to attend.

Fee-based events are a great way to generate revenue and get people interested in the library. They also provide an opportunity for the library to showcase its resources and promote its services.

Fee-based events can also be mixed with more social gatherings like parties or receptions. For example, a private library could host a wine and cheese reception before an author talk. This would provide an opportunity for people to socialize and learn about the library in a relaxed setting.

Receptions and parties can also be held to celebrate special occasions such as the opening of a new wing or the acquisition of a rare book.

#5. Donations

Private libraries also rely on donations from individuals and organizations. These donations can be in the form of money, books, or other materials. Donations are a great way to help support the library and its operations.

Donations are more likely if a private library also performs a public function or charitable work such as providing free or low-cost memberships to those in need, hosting events for underprivileged children, or helping to preserve historical documents.


Private libraries are for-profit businesses that need to generate revenue to support their activities and operations and to stay afloat.

So how do private libraries make money?

In this article, we reviewed 5 of the most common sources of income that private libraries have. These include revenue through membership fees, rental income, sales, fee-based events, and donations.