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Budget Proposals: A Case
of Library Survival
Senior Librarian Relations Consultant
You may have already submitted your 2005 library
budget plans or are currently in the process of writing up the final
proposal. No matter where you are in your budget process, you
understand that resources are scarce in economic times like these. In
fact, if you were a contestant on the TV show "Survivor", you may
perhaps feel that you have been given a test of endurance through a
most inhospitable "economic" obstacle course.
Below are some analogies drawing upon the TV show's objectives to
provide you with a few tips and tricks to decrease your likelihood of
"getting voted off" your institution's lucrative economic island and
instead, to maximize your odds of becoming a final Survivor for budget
allocation within your institution.
Develop a Strategy
If you have been tasked with offering more services for a lesser
amount of money, then take the time now to create a strategy or plan
that will allow you to focus less on what you must cut and more on
what you want to preserve. This point is so important, it bears
repeating: Focus more on what you want to preserve, rather than on
what you want to cut. The items you decide to keep, as well as
those you decide to eliminate, make a clear statement about the type
of library you will have over the long term.
Know what things really cost before cutting. Create a five-year
retrospective of your budget and activity statistics to aid you in
making realistic decisions about a cut. Additionally, you can use
statistical and budget information to mount the library's budget
defense. Be relevant in the services that you provide and communicate
that relevancy all the time-not just at budget time. People will act
on their perception of the library. Make sure that you shape that
image continually through quality services and solid communication.
Be visible and vocal.
Know Your Limitations - And Your Opponents'
Understand the real limitations and objectives facing your opponents
(Managing Partners, Deans, etc...). Recognize that the key to your
survival is not to be defensive or inflexible when communicating with
them, but instead to work at forming alliances with them.
You are faced with many economic challenges, and deciding where to
best allocate your resources can be a very difficult decision.
Recognize that how you carry out some economic challenges, (such as
canceling book titles, receiving salary freezes, etc.), can damage the
health of your library more than others. It all depends on how you
deal with them.
In correlation to the TV Show, the key is for you to understand which
challenges you cannot win because of the restrictions of the game, and
then to determine which ones you can win and are willing to fight till
the bitter end to win. Thus, you need to make your budget cuts
intelligently in order to keep your whole library viable. Always look
to the future, when budgets will improve. Don't drastically cut
everything now as a knee-jerk reaction. This takes a great deal of
skill and forethought.
Remember, "Giving it your all" for every single economic challenge you
are facing will only cause you to experience complete frustration and
The inner workings of a library mystify most people. Forget about
explaining library processes to your counterparts; focus instead on
results, on the mission, and on the value of your library. It is
imperative to set goals and move forward. Define what your library
does, and then do it well.
The average user of the library and your services has no idea what it
costs to run a library or how funding works. Thus, they may be
unsympathetic to your budget challenges, regardless of how well you
treat them. Constant communication is the best remedy. Use your
active users to help you form a powerful constituency and become your
greatest allies. Educate your users (other tribe members) by clearly
mentioning and defining your personal skills and library's services
via a library web page or in a regular library-oriented newsletter.
Converse with Your "Tribe Mates"
Gather insightful information by interacting, one on one, with your
"Survivor" tribe mates (i.e. colleagues). Communicate via email,
participate in and/or follow listserv messages, draw on past
discussions and relationships to assist you in employing creative
marketing initiatives to promote yourself and the library. Be willing
to converse openly with your tribal counterparts (attorneys, faculty,
library patrons, etc.). These other tribe members will often freely
offer suggestions as to how they intend to support or "vote out" your
recommendations. Some of your biggest allies are your customers --
those who can vouch for the work being done by you to help them solve
their problems. Use this to your advantage.
Know How to Influence the "Emotional"
Fine-tune how you interact with a Survivor from another tribe. They
will recognize your positive attitude and react accordingly. The
opposing tribe usually has a very different idea of how to overcome
the economic challenges you both are facing and will act independently
to accomplish their own objectives. It is very important to understand
that they may have already created alliances among themselves and with
other tribe members that you are completely unaware of. Forming
alliances and keeping strong relationships are crucial to achieving
victory. It is all about building and maintaining relationships.
The Bottom Line: "Balance"
Balance, balance, balance everything. Know the best balance between
all the variables. Chat with your tribe mates as often as you can.
Bear in mind that conversing and crafting alliances isn't enough. You
need to also show your worth through hard work. Prove the value of the
library and remember to always keep any promises you made when forming
an alliance, or you can find that your counterparts can turn on you
You may have already successfully submitted your 2005 library budget
plans, made strong alliances along the way, and feel that you have won
more than you have lost in this economic survival game.
Congratulations! If you are just in the beginning stages of tackling
your library budget's economic challenge, I hope you found these
common-sense tips useful and insightful and can proudly claim yourself
a "Survivor" at the end of the process.
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