There are so many more facets to the roles and responsibilities of a teacher-librarian than I ever imagined. Even now, after a year of studying, I am continually surprised by all of the tasks school librarians are expected to accomplish. I never expected that the seemingly boring role of budget management would be one of them. Let alone that it would prove to be less boring than I always thought…
I have spent the last half hour or so reading an article by Debowski (2001) that focuses on the importance of budgeting and accountability for collection management. The article emphasises the importance of a focus on budgeting allocations – on ensuring that the funding provided is used in a way that best supports user needs. Debowski reiterates again and again that the budget is something that cannot go ignored by teacher-librarians – after all, without appropriate funding it is impossible for a library collection to develop and remain relevant.
Until this module, I had never even seriously considered budgeting as a responsibility that I would have as a teacher-librarian. Isn’t that what accountants and financial advisors are for? In a way, I had always just imagined that I would miraculously have all the money I needed to buy all the resources I wanted. How I wish it were that simple…
The world of library budgeting seems to be very much a vicious cycle… Debowski clearly demonstrates this as a reason for maintaining accountability where budgeting is concerned. She states that:
Unfortunately, a small budget can create an increasingly dysfunctional library. As fewer resources are purchased, the library functions more poorly. This reinforces the funding decision, and leads to fewer resources being allocated as the years progress. (Debowski, 2001, 306.)
Clearly – despite the temptation – budgeting is an aspect of collection management that cannot be ignored by those in charge. While users are the heart of the library, budgeting and funding are the lifeblood. One cannot function without the other, and if we are to ensure that users (and the larger school community, administration in particular) continue to view the library as a relevant resource, we need to ensure that funding and allocations meet the needs and goals of the collection.
This means being accountable. It means ensuring that only resources necessary to the collection acquired. It means “linking expenditure to a comprehensive collection building program” (Debowski, 2001, 308). It means increasing library visibility and ensuring that users and administrators are aware of how the library supports teaching and learning. It means that there is a need to plan for the future, to ensure that the library and collection will receive the funds to remain relevant.
Coming into this course, I never would have imagined that all this budgeting nonsense (as I saw it) could be so important. Now, I realise that it is just as much a key responsibility of a teacher-librarian as the selection of resources or the promotion of information literacy. Budgeting has a larger impact on being a teacher-librarian and on the collection itself than I ever could have imagined… And I am amazed that I never realised it before.
Readings: Debowski, S. (2001). Collection program funding management. In K. Dillon, J. Henri & J. McGregor (Eds.), Providing more with less: collection management for school libraries (2nd ed.) (pp.299-326). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.