Many academic librarians today face a world of increasingly bigger student needs and ever-smaller budgets. But even if you’re faced with dwindling cash flow, you can still make your library into one of the leanest, meanest centers of learning on campus today. Today, we’re taking a look into how academic librarians can make the most out of the smallest of budgets.
Last week, we talked about the importance of expanding your library through collaboration. If investing in a new set of psych textbooks just isn’t possible now, rely on your network of libraries to help you through. Let students know about InterLibrary Loans and encourage them to use them to access resources you don’t have on hand. What’s more, don’t be afraid to reach out to academic departments, staff and on-campus museums: they may have resources they’d like to promote through your library. Keep resources coming in from outside (and potentially unexpected!) places and watch your foot traffic grow.
Focus on what’s important
Budget cuts hurt, so make sure you can still provide a wide range of sources to students. Take a survey of your school’s students and staff to find out what’s most important to them. Are they in love with your online databases but have never been into the fiction section? Do physics majors actually need the books you’ve got on file, or are they too busy with in-class projects? By getting a feel for what’s actually being used, you can invest in bolstering the most utilized resources. Consider having a book sale to get rid of what hasn’t been checked out in over a year. A student may have never needed to check out Canterbury Tales, but they might buy it from you for $2.
Develop a fundraising plan
If you’re just not getting the money you need to keep your library relevant to students, ask for help by developing and executing a fundraising plan. Coordinate with your school to identify potential donors and figure out where you need to allocate funds. Then, meet with donors and make your case. For inspiration, take a look at the efforts Geneva Henry of George Washington University’s Gelman Library undertook to raise money for her place of work.
Make the most of your next budget proposal
Sometimes, the best way to get more is to simply ask for it—smartly. Justify proposed budget expenditures by cataloguing current costs and graphing trends in student usage. Create a sense of urgency around your budget: if more funding isn’t allocated to your needs, what will happen to students? How could this affect outcomes for different academic departments? Demonstrate the value of your library to the campus community as quantitatively as possible, and link that to your proposed budget. For an example of how this is done well, take a look at “An Academic Library’s Efforts to Justify Materials Budget Expenditures,” a case study on the University of Florida Smathers Libraries’ budget proposals.
Looking for more examples of academic libraries using their resources creatively? Take a look at this case study we wrote on the University of Arkansas’ fantastic language learning badge program.