I'm no expert on budgets, but I was the Acquisitions Coordinator at the North Park University Library before I attended graduate school. I was responsible for ordering all the books for the library and I learned a lot about budgets, at the least the collection development part. Currently, I work in a very small college without a budget for the library. Trust me, you learn a lot about budgets when you don't have one. And, admittedly, sometimes when I see status updates about library budget cuts on Facebook I want to say: At least you still have a budget!
I can ask for some office supplies from the college but that's about it. No budget for new books. No budget for other supplies. Just a few things here or there. (And obviously there is a budget to pay staff.)
But, anyway, today I'm using this space to share my thoughts on how to run a library without a budget. Because, let's face it, a blog post gives a lot more space for ranting than a Facebook status. :)
Here are some tips and things I've learned:
- Never say no. Friends from the US have mailed me things like pens, pencils, post-it notes, and even a white board. Little things help so much!
- Be willing to do anything. With few staff members, I have to do whatever has to be done (processing books, cleaning, moving tables, shelving books, shelf reading, etc.). I'm a firm believer that I can't take myself so seriously that I think: "I'm a librarian so I can't do that".
- Use everything. For example, we are in the processing of transitioning from manual check-out to computerized checkout. We use left-over pages in the manual check-out book for pages where students can sign up for a computer time. A small piece of paper used for making a to-do list is filled completely before it's thrown away.
- Be creative. Admittedly, this is a hard area for me. But I'm learning to try new things. For example, I don't have a printer so I create simple signs and then print them in the main office. We don't have a laminator so to protect the signs from the loads of dust here I put them in plastic sleeves designed for three-ring binders. (Yes, I bought the sleeves with my own money.) Then I tape them up! Not as flashy as what I would do in the US but it works.
- Take advantage of free software. I spend time researching good theological study tools that are free. I've found some great websites, organizations, and software!
- Network. I'm trying to reach out more to other librarians in Uganda. I want to learn from them...where they get their supplies, how they do their jobs, etc.
- Ask the main question: What do we really need?
- Remember the goal. Along with the previous point, this seems the most important. The goal (for me) is always to educate students and help connect them to information. So I ask: Do I need a budget/money/etc to do ____? Often the answer is no. And the follow up question becomes: Ok, so how do I do ____?