Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Librarian, know thy budget

It's no secret academic libraries, or any library for that matter, are closely guarding budgets. I oversee specific sections of the overall library budget (education, education research, and general purchases) as well as a separate multi-line resource center budget (technology, instructional supply, office supply, non-print, etc.). While both sets of expenditures serve the same community of patrons and professionals, there is a line of demarcation when spending said funding; library budget purchases are for the library circulating collection and resource center purchases are for the resource center circulating collection. There is one notable exception to this policy, a gray area of interpretation to be sure, the juvenile collection.

Part of the overall circulating collection, juvenile books are also an integral component of the resource center. When I first started this job, the juvenile collection was woefully under represented because of the existing structure's lack of funds. A small endowment was set aside for juvenile and often only award books were purchased. With the resource center came the resource center's budget, including opportunity and responsibility. Recognizing the need for juvenile purchases and noting the resource center budget is relatively healthy, I made the decision (with director authorization) to purchase juvenile books using resource center budget.

Significant juvenile collection purchases have been made over the years and as the number of juvenile titles increased, so did the circulation of the juvenile collection. Slowly but surely the number of juvenile books requested from other libraries decreased and the number of our books requested by other libraries increased. Patrons do not check out one children's book, they check out a stack of them for the classroom, for assignments and for pleasure. Each year the director shares circulation statistics, juvenile circulation has close to doubled in the last five years.

Last year the library purchased 1500 - 1800 books for the circulating collection, 877 of those books were juvenile; different budget, same catalog circulation classification. Thanks to my budget spread sheets, I can easily locate the percentage of my resource center line budget spent on children's books and relate it to the circulation statistics. Why is this important? Today my boss asked me if I thought it was time to curb spending on the juvenile collection. He noted that every third cart arriving in technical services was juvenile (very true, though an argument could be made that I simply spend earlier than others) and my general spending purchase line was exhausted before the half-way mark of the academic fiscal year (a recent purchase of Alex Award titles - adult books for young adults - had put me over my limit).

I was able to expand on budget allocation for the juvenile collection, make note of the number of juvenile titles purchased in regard to the entire circulating purchases last year, and reference the circulating collection increases supported during the same time frame. He was pleased with the break-down and inclusion of statistics. I am pleased to be able to proceed as usual, balancing need with available budget.

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