Doing More with Less in 21st Century Libraries


… why are we still saying this?!!! It isn’t true and it isn’t possible. Its delusional and, worse, its harmful! Harmful not just to one organization; but to libraries everywhere. Libraries around the world fight every day for increased budget. Continuing to proudly promote the notion that we can do more with less if we try hard enough undermines every library budget effort.
Think of it like this:
If you have a staff member who says “I’m completely swamped! I don’t have a minute to spare!!” You give them a project anyway and they somehow find time to accomplish it without dropping anything else. Do you think that they were miraculously able to do more with less or are you more inclined to think that they were actually not using their time effectively to begin with and indeed really did have the time to take on a new project? The same theory holds true for the library and our budget decision-makers. If we say we are doing as much as possible with the money that we have and we need more, then our budgets are reduced, and we miraculously find a way to do more with less why WOULDN’T the budget makers assume that we were actually not using our money effectively in the first place!?

Where does this leave our credibility? What should anyone take us seriously the next time we approach with an outstretched hand asking for more funds? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that they will take a more critical view of what we are doing with what we currently receive every time we ‘do more with less’?!

When I hear someone say they are doing more with less I can’t help wonder if, in actuality, they were actually wasting money previously. While I’m sure this is not always true, sometimes it is and certainly there will be those around us that will think the same. The reality is the times are tight. The reality is the times have been tight before. The reality is that times will be tight again. We cannot do more with less; what we can do is less with less and we need people to understand that. We have to be honest, stop painting rosy pictures and start educating our communities on what these budget reductions truly mean to them. We are the experts on library service. Our communities don’t always know what is possible with adequate funding. It’s great to inform our patrons of our services and what we DO have to offer. However, it is also important to inform and educate about the services we COULD offer with adequate funding. People cannot lobby for or fund what they do not know exists.

We must stop being out own worst enemy and with our mantra of “we can do more with less” confirming for those who would reduce our funding that they did exactly the right thing! “Look! See. We reduced their budget and they are still fine!! We knew they had more money than they needed, this proves it!

If every time our budgets are cut we pat ourselves on the back because we took extreme measures to ensure that the public didn’t feel any reduction, where will the motivation come from for the community or politicos to EVER reinstate the monies that have been lost?? Instead of compulsively covering and self-consciously acting as if everything is fine for fear that someone might not think we are providing effective service, we need to stand up and say NO we can’t do more with less! We can’t even do the same with less and we most absolutely cannot provide the service our communities deserve and need with less!!

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Doing More with Less in 21st Century Libraries

  1. There have to be repercussions when funding is inadequate. In the trough of the recession, when our budget was dramatically reduced we closed for two weeks during the summer. We did that in consecutive years. It was a drastic response. At the same time we reiterated the services that we were providing, invested time and energy on efforts to position ourselves as a center of community activity and a driving force in the renascence of the city center. It is an ongoing process and has no end. The narrative needs refreshing on a regular basis and additional emphasis on what we are doing with the additional funds that the city is now able to invest in our institution.

  2. Pingback: Doing More with Less in 21st Century Libraries ...

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