TL Blogging Challenge #20 – Library Budget Stretching
TL Blogging Challenge #20 – Budgets are tight. How do you make it stretch? Fundraisers, paperbacks, doing your own rebinds…how do you do it?
Budgets are always a tough topic in education, especially recently. Books, audiobooks, cameras, tablets and iPads, and makerspace materials all cost money. And don’t even get me started on the generally ridiculous prices and license agreements of ebooks! Library budgets and librarian positions have been on the budget chopping block again and again in recent years with little explanation other than “Well, just make it work.”
Personally, I’m a pretty thrifty person. I grow some of our food in our backyard garden and preserve it by canning in the summer. I’m a pretty good fixer around the house (one of the reasons makerspaces appeal to me so much), and I don’t throw something away unless it really has NO use left. There’s a Mennonite/PA Dutch saying that goes like this: “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” That pretty much sums up my thinking on matters of budget and material possessions.
I think librarians, in general, are the same way. We are thrifty by nature and training, but we also believe in investing in quality. Decades of budget cycles, in good times and bad, have taught us how to creatively work with whatever budget we have. We can hot-glue bindings and scotch-tape library books’ damaged pages instead of using acid-free book tape and book binding glue (though I think it’s worth it to get quality library supplies if you have a budget). We can host book fairs, write grants, and solicit donations with “birthday books.” I don’t think paperbacks are worth buying for most titles, but I get them for the pop-culture celebrity biographies and some serial chapter books like “Goosebumps.” All of these cost-saving measures make my library budget stretch. And I’m one of the lucky, blessed teacher-librarians who works with district administrators who understand the return-on-investment a library budget provides to students and the school community.
The thing is, thriftiness only goes so far. At some point, I think we as teacher-librarians have to make the decision to stop “making do” (and spending our own money to stock the library shelves), and instead put that time and energy into advocating for an actual budget and clerical assistance. I don’t know where that point is, but I think too much “making do” can actually impede advocacy efforts and prevent administrators from realizing the financial costs of running a quality library program.
I know there are plenty of teacher-librarians and library media specialists out there who have NOTHING or almost nothing in the way of budget or paid clerical help. I know volunteers are great, but they are no replacement for reliable, paid assistants. If you are a teacher-librarian doing such herculean work, keep going and keep advocating! I recommend the PSLA Top 10 Lists and Teachers Pay Teachers to help you find the resources you need to keep your sanity, build relationships with your school community, and do what you can with what you are given.
If you are an administrator reading this post, PLEASE advocate for a library budget and/or paid clerical hours! Without any funds or staff, your teacher-librarian’s hands are tied in so many ways. He/she cannot create a 21st century library program if every spare moment is spent doing the massive amount of clerical work it takes to keep a library up and running. There is PLENTY of data and research showing the positive effect of a well-staffed, well-funded school library on student learning (and yes, standardized test scores too). But just having a “library time” run by classroom teachers or volunteers doesn’t get you those benefits. A library program must be funded and professionally staffed to be effective. Okay, stepping down from my soapbox now…
This is the last post for the blogging challenge from Cybrarian Jen at Where Books and Technology Meet. If you’ve been following and/or blogging along, thank you for being a reader and learner with me! I probably won’t blog much the rest of the summer, but I’ll see you all again in September! Have a safe and restful summer, and Happy 4th of July!