The Do’s and Don’ts of Library Budgeting

Creating a library budget isn’t easy; if anything, it’s far from it. Many librarians lose a portion of their budget or their entire budget each year if there isn’t evidence of the library’s success. However, how do you prove learning? This can be hard to do, which is why so many librarians struggle to spend their budget on the right areas. Sometimes librarians may think they’re allocating funds to the right areas, only to be disappointed at the end of the year.

The threat of losing a budget
Librarians who currently have a spending budget are more concerned than ever with losing it. Libraries have faced some of the most drastic budget cuts in history, with many libraries being forced to close their doors for good. What once was an institution for learning develops into a dusty, old memory. In 2010, nearly 40 percent of mayors noted that they planned to make library cuts, such as restricting hours or laying off employees, according to the Harris/Reader’s Digest Poll.

For many, it’s all too easy for legislature to make cuts from the library over the police station or the town hall, especially when the library is underappreciated. According to Marcia Warner, the President of the Public Library Association, many town citizens don’t care about the library until budget cuts affect them. However, by the time citizens take notice, nothing can be done.

“In 2010, nearly 40% of mayors noted that they planned to make library cuts.”

That’s why it’s important for librarians to prove their worth by spending their budgets wisely. If you’re a librarian who’s looking to maintain and even expand your budget, consider these do’s and don’ts of library budgeting.

Do: Focus on makerspaces
When looking at the budget, many legislators make cuts to the library because they assume it simply houses old texts and learning styles. However, libraries can be a source of innovation. Many librarians are turning to makerspaces to make their communities more interesting and help engage students. The best part? Makerspaces can be whatever you like. Many focus on STEM learning, which is at the forefront of many educational curriculums at the moment. Librarians might incorporate electronics, software, and even 3D printers to inspire students and encourage them to create and learn new things.

Don’t: Focus on print
While most of our past educational tools were in print, many have crossed over to the digital side. With that in mind, it isn’t wise for librarians to push for more books, which currently are expected to lose their budget by 50 percent, according to PCG’s Library Budget Predictions for 2015. Instead, ask for digital versions of the publications that can be accessed from tablets and computers.

Do: Have a budget plan
This may seem like it goes without saying, but it’s worth repeating. Librarians should plan out their entire spending budget, down to accounting for every single pen and piece of paper. This budget should only be focused on spending throughout the school year, unless the library is open year-round. Librarians should consistently check on their budget throughout the year in case unseen expenditures threw off the initial plan. When planning, librarians should focus on the big picture and what’s most important. Most of the time, librarians won’t get everything they ask for.

Do: Act positiveDon’t: Present budget plans unprepared or with a lot of details
If librarians are asked to present their budget plan in front of the school board or town committee, it’s important to act wisely. Don’t come unprepared – know what you’re in for, that you won’t get everything you want, and that you might face some tough questions. If possible, work on the presentation with a group and assign one presenter. Don’t give a lot of details – the more information given, the more questions you’ll receive – and the worse the budget might be.

Regardless of the outlook of libraries across the nation, it’s important that librarians don’t lose hope and allow their budgets to get cut. While these community spaces are changing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of librarians and their employees. When presenting budgets and coming up with ideas for how to distribute this money, it’s important to think positively and creatively to develop an innovative plan that will encourage and engage students and the community.

Don’t: Lose hope or give up
If you hear rumors about budget cuts or have a potential cut looming overhead, it’s important not to lose hope and give up on creating a great budget each year. Once you give up hope, it becomes a lot more likely that your budget will be cut. Regardless of the outlook, it’s important to still look for ways to inspire people in your community to boost your odds when budget reviews come around.

Download our free white paper, The Librarian of the Future, for more information about working with your library budget and growing your library community.

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