As I sit here writing this blog post about budget plans, I have come to the conclusion that this information could probably fill a book, be a 60-minute presentation at a conference, or even a semester-long class within a school library program. There are a lot of parts to this, and the post below will just skim the surface. I am by no means an expert on creating a school library budget plan, but my goal for you after reading this post, is to just stop and think about how purposefully planning and spending your library budgets could impact your school library program.
The new year has kicked off, students and staff are getting back into the routine of things, and it’s the best part of the year for many of us librarians - we get to start spending the new school year’s budgets. Now, when I say budgets, I truly mean any funds available to the library to improve the services it provides to patrons. Some districts are fortunate enough to have budgets allocated by administration using a specific formula. Other districts will provide libraries with the minimum amount of funds required by the state. There are even some librarians who will have to rely solely on grants and fundraising to be able to purchase any materials for their space. Regardless of how you receive your “budget” it is imperative to spend it responsibly.
I know that for the first several years I spent as a librarian I was so excited to have all this money to spend on books. I mean, who wouldn’t want a job where people gave you money to buy hundreds of books? But the problem is, I just spent the money. I had no idea what I was doing, what money was going towards what, I just knew that I had to spend as much of it as possible. At the end of the year, I would sit back and wonder, well where did all of that money go? Oftentimes, I couldn’t quite remember, and I knew that was a problem. After a few years of following this cycle of just blind spending my budget, I had to make a change and become more purposeful in my spending. I needed to come up with a plan.
The first step to creating a budget plan is to identify the needs of your library program. There are a few ways you can do this. First, look at your collection, and identify areas that need special attention. Both Follett and Mackin have great collection analysis reports that provide specific information, sometimes even down to the dewey decimal number. Second, reach out to your patrons, both students and staff to determine the needs they might see for your space or program. Finally, use your professional judgement and personal professional goals to identify the direction you would like your collection or program to head over the next nine months.
Once you have identified your needs, it's time to start planning on how you will spend your budget to meet the needs of your program. Here’s a quick list of ideas to create your own budget plan report, and of course you can find some examples on Twitter and Pinterest.
IDEAS OF WHAT TO INCLUDE IN AN BUDGET PLAN
Your budget plan could be an extensive spreadsheet that outlines every little detail about your spending this year, or it could be a one-page Canva graphic that highlights just a few things. Regardless of the size or the format, a budget plan helps us reflect as librarians so we can set goals for our spending and provide better services to our patrons.
Here are a few other considerations to make while creating your budget plan.
Once you get into the habit of creating a plan each year, it’ll become a natural part of your collection development process. Your vision for the library, especially through a budget plan, will continue to help your collection improve and secure budgets for future purchases.
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.