Have you started thinking about your 2020-2021 budget yet? I’m guessing that 99% of school librarians ponder funding quite a bit in the summertime. Let’s face it, in our school libraries… money matters! Getting books and e-books into kids’ hands is not an inexpensive endeavor. Renewing subscriptions for online resources and setting up library centers creates a dent in even the most generous collection of funds. Fortunately, most of us manage a district budget, book fair proceeds, and an assortment of payments for lost or damaged books throughout the year. Sustaining our programs usually requires every bit of those funds. On top of that, most of us probably dream (and scheme) about acquiring more money to keep our programs growing!
Without a doubt, keeping up with the money is an important part of a librarian’s duties. In fact, one of the first things a new librarian needs to do is make friends with the school’s bookkeeper. Of course, at my school this fall, I’m the “veteran” librarian and the bookkeeper, Mrs. B, will be the newbie. Either way, I’ve been thinking about this new relationship that’s approaching, and over the past few weeks, I’ve jotted down some ideas that many of us may need to implement this fall.
Help Me Help You
First of all, one of the biggest items on my back-to-school list is to schedule about 30 minutes to sit down with our new bookkeeper and discuss procedures. I’m prepared to be patient about the timing. I imagine that our Mrs. B will be overwhelmed at first. She’ll probably be attending numerous trainings and trying to catch her breath as she gets up to speed. It’s all good.
Once we have a meeting planned, I’m going in with rations. Here’s a veteran tip for you. Find out your bookkeeper’s favorite beverage and snack. Then, go into that initial meeting bestowing both with a big smile. If the preferences are not available to you, throw together a small “survival kit.” Grab one of those small plastic school boxes on your next trip to the store and fill it with school day essentials. For example, you could buy a nice pen, a bottle of Tylenol, some ponytail bands, a few band-aids, lip balm, and a handful of something chocolate. In addition, at this first meeting, plan to take a few minutes for small talk. Begin to build a freindship. It will be a blessing for both of you.
As a newbie, you’re going to need to know some facts pretty quickly. These include the amount of your district library budget as well as any other funds that fall under your control. For example, book fair proceeds and payments for lost or damaged books may be in an “activity account.” In addition, you’ll want to ask about the following:
- What are the state and school district guidelines concerning how monies can be spent?
- Are their specific deadlines for spending within your district?
- Should certain procedures be followed for acquiring and filling out “Consent to Purchase” forms?
- What is in the school’s chain of command for getting desired purchases approved, signed, and turned in properly?
- Who is responsible for ordering items and what method is preferred? (This could be fax, email, telephone, etc.)
- Is there a district list of approved vendors to use? If so, what’s the process for getting a vendor added to the list?
- Are remaining funds rolled over to the next school year, or are they absorbed elsewhere?
- Have any fundraisers been scheduled such as book fairs and read-a-thons. If not, is there a known rep who should be contacted?
- Did the former librarian leave notes for you to refer to as you begin the budget-planning process?
- Were annual requisitions prepared at the end of last year? (For instance, your library automation software may have an annual maintenance plan that needs to be paid immediately, so your circulation process will work.)
Money Matters… and So Do You
Although this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it should get you started on your school library budget journey. Take a deep breath and embrace this new challenge with enthusiasm. Also, be ready to give yourself a little grace if you do run into a problem.
One last thing, I’ve created a little budget binder for tracking purchases. It is FREE and available for download below. As always, if you recall a helpful idea that I didn’t mention, please share in the comments below! Or, if you think of a question for me, comment as well, and I’ll get back to you.