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The most important purchases: library budgets in the proprietary college pt2

February 24, 2012

Thinking about the next years budget is really about asking questions and deciding on answers.  The first questions I try to answer have to do with usage.  To start the first thing I do is check stats on what was used the previous year.  I look at number of log ins for our databases, total number of book circulations, what programs were the most successful and the least successful.  And then I ask a bunch of questions.  Are their types/subjects of books that got more use?  How many articles were printed/shared/emailed in the databases?  And on and on.  The budget process doesn’t stop with material though and while it’s obvious when you have never thought about the process before it’s possible to get blindsided by other considerations.  For example:

Do we have requests from faculty or students for equipment? 

How is professional development going for myself and my staff?

How much paper did we use?

What about salaries?

Well, you get the idea.  Currently most of my library’s budget goes to electronic resources; databases, journals, etc.  I think that is probably pretty common in any academic library but especially in a career college.  If you have any online students that is just increased again.  Right now I’m looking at adding some electronic resources.  Specifically I’m playing around with the idea of a sort of embedded librarian option in conjunction with LibGuides.  I really like the platform and was hoping to move on it this year but it didn’t end up working out.  I will put it back in the budget for next year.  With our ILS migration I will also be able to eliminate the subscription price for what we currently use. 

I actually don’t like purchasing books for our library.  I think the money could be better spent in other ways.  I know a lot of librarians that don’t agree with that but our circulation is low and really, why would someone read a book when all they really need is some information to develop a reference paper?  Our course work doesn’t necessitate a lot of research in the tradition sense and most assignments end up being reference work really.  I quick paper (3 maybe 5 pages) on the what, how, when or something.  Synthesising anything original in that is not part of the assignment – that would be the benefit of books.  That isn’t to say that we don’t have books or that I don’t purchase them.  Our reference section is quite dense and our circulating collection has been very well-developed.  Students are often surprised at what we have for them.  And I do want full shelves (check out the video for an idea of what I’m talking about).  If I had a chose though between a great database and a physical encyclopedia set I would choose the database. 

After electronic resources I think the second most important expense is professional development and program offerings.  We conduct a lot of workshops both for students and faculty.  It’s important to me that I continue to support those services.  In addition I think that the more training and collaboration our library team can do (and the team is myself and one assistant librarian) the better.  With such a small staff, being able to stay “connected” to the profession is critical so we don’t get stale. 

So, what about you?  Where do you spend most of your library budget?  What is important to your patrons?  If you could get anything for your library, what would it be??

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