Tag Archives: library funding

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!!

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21st century libraries are a one stop for job seekers….


So says the new “Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act” signed into law on July 22, 2014.

“As the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes libraries as One-Stop partners and includes adult education and literacy programs offered at libraries as statewide employment and training activities. Additionally, the bill provides funding support for 21st-century digital readiness training programs that help library users learn how to use technology to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.

“Today America, libraries and the people who come to us for assistance have cause for renewed optimism. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes that libraries are often the first places Americans seek when they need job training or job search assistance. We’re proud of what libraries have accomplished with meager resources over the last several years. Now, with the support of this legislation, we look forward to a brighter future for the American workforce libraries have served for more than a century.
“The American Library Association would like to thank Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) for their long time efforts to include libraries in this legislation.”

From the July 22, 2014 Press Release from ALA

“Senator Jack Reed and I led the effort to include public libraries in this important new law because they are often the first places Americans go for skill development and job search assistance,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). “I’ve seen this firsthand with NJWorks@yourlibraryproject, which used federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to help get job seekers back to work with access to online job resources and training in every community in New Jersey.”

from the July 23rd article on District Dispatch

It is an interesting moment. To have a large piece of our mission recognized and mandated at the same time. This feels like a win… The law reaffirms what most are already doing, provides us a seat at the table, and a vehicle to seek funding.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the document:

The WIOA Bill (for the hearty)

Bill Text H.R. 113 for those who wish to see the “local library”piece

Fact Sheet

The Fact Summary

When will we see funding or change?

Key Implementation Dates

As this mandate is applied it will be interesting to see the reaction from those (like the WIBs and similar agencies) who now must allow us a seat at the table. Will we be welcomed with open arms? Will additional funds be made available at the federal level or will our inclusion affect the funding available to others in our community? If so, how welcome will we be then?

Last thought:
This is a great thing!! To have new funding avenues and official support and recognition for a service most libraries already provide.
But, as with many things, this could be a slippery slope. We must be vigilant in years to come that other such legislation is as reflective if our purpose and mission.
It would be an unfortunate day when we awoke to discover that we were now a “one-stop shop” for a service or purpose we could not as readily embrace such as supplemental nutritional assistance, adult protective services or transportation assistance programs. Legislation that mandates we incorporate a program or service that we (some or many) feel is not in line with our mission of creating an informed citizenry and providing access to information. Will ALA be our watchdog and seek buy-in on any new legislation…or use local libraries services as a political token to be cashed in as they choose?

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