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You mean I have a budget? library budgets in the proprietary college pt1

February 21, 2012

Money – it’s a love hate thing for me.  I need it to be able to do what I want to do in our library but thinking about it sometimes can be stressful.  When I first started in my career college library I was not quiet finished with my MLS.  I had a library management class the first semester I held the position of head librarian and spent, maybe two weeks on budgeting.  I should also probably disclaim that I have a bit of an anxiety about numbers; math has never been an easy subject for me and so the budgeting process was, quite naturally, intimidating for me.  I SO didn’t want to screw it up.  This time of the year though, I always need to revisit this topic and look to what I think the future might hold for the library over the next fiscal year.  I debated a bit on how I wanted to approach this topic on the blog.  I could focus on how to get budget money, or to at least KNOW what the budget is (it’s very common for for-profit college libraries to NOT know).  I could talk about what I spend my money on, where I think the best places are to develop, my challenges with it… well, you get the idea.  In the end I thought I would touch on them all, at least a little, and felt I should start with the importance of knowing what the budget is.  That was the first major struggle I faced and it is absolutely critical that you know what those numbers are if you are to be effective in your role as the librarian. 

Our year runs from June to July.  This will be my 4th budget process and for those who are new to it have faith, it does get easier.  🙂  At the time I was nervous about talking about numbers.  In a typical library those numbers are out in the open for the public to see.  It is expected that the cost will be shared.  That is not always the vibe you get in a career college.  Some managers and supervisors feel the need to “hide” what those numbers are.  I will admit I will never understand the rationale behind it, you just can’t expect to hire someone to make purchasing decisions and then not tell them how much they can spend.  But that was the situation I found myself in.  At the time I was told the reason they didn’t have solid numbers to give me was because we were a new school and didn’t have a previous year to compare to.  I soon realized however, that this is often the case for many for-profit college libraries.  They aren’t told that they even have a budget.  This makes me batty and we don’t get a lot of help. 

Depending on the type of school you work in (the degrees you offer) your accreditation standards might not say anything about it.  Even the standards for doctoral degree programs with ACICS doesn’t say the library MUST know the budget numbers.  I will add here that they generally ask me about the budget when they come for a visit but it is not a big discussion.  If your school happens to be regionally accredited rather than national that might be (and hopefully is) different.  Perhaps your state approval board says something about it?  The standards in NC are very clear.  If you find yourself in a situation where talking about money is difficulty when planning the future of your library fear not!  The next several posts are going to talk about some of those issues and I’m also hoping we can get a dialog going in the comments section where ideas can be shared.

So share away!  How is budgeting handled in your library?  Do you know what your budget numbers are?  Do you have a good working relationship with your campus president or dean that makes talking about it easier?  I’m eager to hear your thoughts and learn about your situations.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Alice Graves permalink
    February 21, 2012 6:34 pm

    I don’t have a budget. My library is small, consisting of outdated textbooks and other free or donated books. I recently spent a few hundred dollars on general reading books, hoping students would want to read for pleasure, but they remain unread. I think I will have to read them myself.

    • February 21, 2012 7:50 pm

      I have heard this from many people and it must be incredibly frustrating. I’m curious Alice, do you have any electronic resources for your students? How do/does that get paid for? Is there a national library director positition at your institution that handles the budgeting for your library? Where does your salary come from?

  2. Rae Lovvorn permalink
    February 22, 2012 5:11 am

    Like your school, the budget is a mystery to our library staff. We are big enough to be our own consortium for virtual resources, and I have an idea now what our share of that is, but it has taken me nearly 5 years to get that information. I don’t understand why. I usually end up referring accreditors/auditors to our campus director for budgetary information.

    • February 22, 2012 6:01 pm

      Hi Rae! Thanks for your comments. It really hard when you aren’t sure what is available to work with? Do you do collection development and/or acquisitions for your library or is that taken care of at another location? I know several CC librarians that direct accreditors and such to their CD. Seems inefficient to me.

  3. Alice Graves permalink
    February 27, 2012 2:58 pm

    Jennifer, we do have electronic resources–2 databases–that are on the corporate website. I lead students to more relevant websites, like Medline Plus.I hand out LibGuides (printed, as our students do not have school emails and I have no access to a course delivery system). Budgeting is haphazard, depending on one’s Campus President. I have a good one and I have purchased some general reading books.

    • February 27, 2012 7:33 pm

      Thanks for the comments Alice. I’m glad to know you have a great Campus President and that you have a few general reading items. My hope is that has more attention is paid to career colleges that their libraries will be given more attention too. I would love to know what databases you subscribe too. I have been pretty happy with LIRN but there are certainly lots to choose from.

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