career Library Leadership

Library Budgets

Why a budget article in June when the budget is most likely done for the fiscal year?  I want you to think about all the changes and budget shifts likely to come in the next six months. Covid is still present. Therefore, library budgets must be constantly prioritized. Here are some strategies to consider for your next budget process.


Pre-pandemic foot traffic has not come back to libraries. In-person programs are still unsafe in some communities. A library leader must be thinking about utilizing their staff more efficiently, since libraries are in-person services.

You might ramp up virtual storytimes or teen programs. Consider reducing public hours to consolidate your labor budget. The minimum wage has increased in many states, so a shrinking budget is a reality. Get creative to have staff cross train and don’t rehire for vacant positions.

Collection Budget

With Ebooks and streaming movies exploding in use last year, increase your digital collection budget. This means you will most likely need to reduce your physical collection budget. This is a decision not taken lightly, due to access of computers, reading needs, and the demographics of your community. Think this through carefully.

However, taking small steps to increase digital offerings will increase your library team’s efficiency and safety. Ask other like-sized library systems their recommendation to get a feel for what your customers really want and need moving forward.

Rethink Equipment Needs

With the decrease in foot traffic, can replacement equipment be put on hold? Does the automatic sorter really need to be replaced or can it hold out another year or two? Put on your negotiator’s hat and work with your vendor to devise a budget that works for you.

In addition to equipment, think about scaling back on physical book supplies for mending and cataloging. Does the library have an outreach and events team with a budget? Economizing in every area will go a long way to balance the budget for the future.

Extending Library Services

Hear me out on this one. Libraries are unique and every community is little bit different. You need to consider internal partnerships that can share library staff (and salaries) and benefit your town.

This could be homeless services, mobile literacy services or senior care needs. Get creative to devise a plan that will utilize your library and staff and extend the library into the community.

Follow me on my personal site for more tips on living well at: