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Survival Guide for Idaho Librarians: Administration

This guide is designed to be a quick start for an individual who suddenly is in charge of a public or school library in Idaho.


Budgeting:  Or, How Much Does That Cost?

As a new librarian, one of the first tasks is to find out how much you will be involved with the fiscal management of the library. Here are some questions to ask your principal or superintendent:

  • What is the library's budget for this year? (Get a copy!)
  • Who receives the bills and verifies that the goods or services charged for have been received?
  • If you are responsible for preparing the financial statement, what format should you use? Are there computer programs or forms that are set up for this purpose?
  • If the fiscal management is handled primarily by someone other than the staff, how is the staff kept informed of the library's financial status?
  • Is there a limit set on the size of expenditures that can be made by the staff without preapproval?

Knowing answers to these questions will be helpful.

Guidelines:  Or, Get It In Writing

We like to think of libraries as peaceful, quiet places where people are always nice to each other. Much of the time this is true. There are times, however, when libraries are not so quiet. In fact, sometimes libraries can become downright controversial.

For example, sometimes there are people who do not like some of the books or other materials that a library makes available to the community. Or an employee may feel that she has been treated unfairly. Or somebody’s behavior disturbs other patrons. Or someone claims that his books have been returned, although the library’s records show that they are still checked out.  Read the document below to learn how to respond to these situations and about tips on preparing a guidelines manual.

Planning:  Or, If I Knew Where We Were Going ...?

Planning is an important part of the work of librarians. With limited resources, it is important that your library use what it has in a strategic, systematic matter. Unplanned changes usually cost more in time and money than changes that are thought out in advance.  Planning can help secure funds from outside sources. A well constructed plan shows funders that the library knows what needs to be done for the community. It also is an indicator of a fiscally responsible agency.

Planning is considered to be so important by the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) that Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants are not available to libraries without written plans.

In our dynamically changing environment, strategic planning helps a library be more responsive that the traditional long-range plan of the past. Writing a strategic plan is not enough, however. Once the plan is written, you have to follow it and monitor it. If your library already has a written plan, you should be using it as you make decisions throughout the year.

To find out if you have a plan, look for a copy in your policy manual or other materials that you obtained from the previous librarian or principal. If you cannot find a plan, ask your principal or district librarian. If it has, ask for a copy.

In a well written plan, you will find activities for each year. You can use these activities to help you make decisions about what your library will be doing. Sometimes activities cannot be carried out, in which case you should decide whether to continue, modify, or drop the activity. This should be done on regular basis, with an overall review of the plan at least once a year.

If your library has not yet written a plan, you need to think about doing so.

One planning process that is recommended for public libraries appears in a book entitled Strategic Planning for Results, by Sandra Nelson for the Public Library Division of the American Library Association.  There are other planning models that also can be used.  

School librarians should explore AASL tools for planning.

Procedures:  Or, Where's the Light Switch?

A brand new director walked into her one-person library for the first time. She had worked in libraries before. She had highly developed library skills. The school had been lucky to find such a qualified person. They had given her a key and a policy manual. She arrived early enough to open the library with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, no one had thought to tell her where the light switches were located, so she spent a lot of time trying to find them, and then trying to find someone who knew where they were.  The first day was not off to a good start.

Whether we like it or not, school libraries, like all organizations, are dependent on routine. We keep regularly scheduled hours; we shelve books consistently in the same manner; we use the same procedures to check out materials and check them back in; we catalog materials using the same system, day in and day out. If we did not follow these routines, our libraries would be disorganized, no one could ever find anything, and our customers would never know what to expect from us.

Read the document to gain tips on developing a procedures manual.

Statistics:  Or, What Numbers Do You Have?

Some people get uncomfortable when the topic of "statistics" comes up. They envision complicated mathematical formulas and jargon they don't understand. In the library, however, statistics basically have to do with counting. Statistics are used as one way to measure how the library is doing in meeting the needs of its community.
There are basically two kinds of measures that are used.  One kind of measure tells us what the library provides. Some of these measures would include the number of volumes owned, the number of hours the library is opened, and the number of staff members. This kind of measure is sometimes called an input measure.
The other kind of measure tells us how much the library is used. Some of these measures include: number of people visiting the library, number of items circulated, and number of reference questions answered. This kind of measure is sometimes called an output measure.
Statistical measures can be very useful in helping evaluate library services. Using statistics, libraries can compare themselves to other libraries in similar communities. They can also compare how they have done in one period of time with a similar period of time in the past. For example, it is not unusual for a monthly library report to show how the present year's monthly circulation compared with last year's.
For more information about statistics check out the attached document below.
For online resources to learn more about statistics, check out these links:
  • :  blog for sharing ideas and experiences in working with data as a librarian
  • Databrarians :  facebook group for collaboration and questions

The sites linked below may be useful to anyone interested in library data in other states and at the national level.

GEOLib  Florida State University Library Mapping and Census Data

Library Research Service

National Center for Education Statistics

COMPASS Ada and Canyon County Maps, etc.

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Project Management

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Planning & Communicating Tools

Evaluation & Follow-up

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