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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Valuing Processing with $0 budget

Small town librarian left a comment for me in the post on Valuing My Time. I truly respect every librarian who has no budget and want to stand on my soap box to preach throughout the halls of administration because I know what you are talking about. I have taught in districts that gave me $500. My response wouldn’t fit in the 7,000 character limit for comments so I’m opening the discussion up to others. I need each of you to comment on your budget situation so our community of readers has data. How much do you receive for books and media? Does it meet your needs?

I understand what you are talking about with budgets. I get horror stories from so many librarians about having no budget. It is important that you have a place to tell others about this. I would encourage all librarians to start leaving comments about their funding situations so we have data to present nationally. It’s not enough to talk in global terms, I need specifics and you need to share them. 

My friend Allison wraps gifts at her local bookstore to earn money to buy books or holds a book fair to get a small profit. Her district gives her nothing. How can she be expected to meet the academic or recreational needs of her students? 

When we do the math, after 20 % of my district’s funds were taken out for pooled databases, we received $6 per student (not $15 like some). If you have 900 students like I do, you get about $5,000 to cover all print and media needs. If you only have 300 students, you receive $1800. Anyone who is doing the math knows, you cannot build a successful collection with $1800. Reference materials alone could take that amount. Additionally, I can’t meet my circulation demands with $5,000 or buy the books teachers are asking for to help them instruct students. 

Every school no matter their size should have a base amount of funding to begin, then additional funds should be allocated based upon the population and their circulation. Schools that circulate more (sometimes due to just having more students) need more, but you have got to provide a base amount so all school libraries have the opportunity to increase circulation. Funding formulas need to take this into account. 

Bake sales and wrapping paper shouldn’t fund our collections. If the districts want us to buy materials to support the collection, they need to provide the funds. If I’m using my own time after school to generate funds for my district, I’m going to fund my circulation and recreational needs, also. As I stated in my radical comments: Participation Powers Purchases.

But back to Small Town Librarian’s point, your time is a budgetable item also. I spent many years doing my own processing, even though my district encouraged our purchasing processing. It took me looking at how quickly a corporate vendor could do the materials to realize that even if I only bought 25 books, the time I spent processing would provide better value used for face to face instruction. I’m talking about value to the students – the entire reason we are there. 

Most vendors will work hard with you on pricing. You can negotiate far more. What would processing really cost you? $0.35, $1.00, $2.30 per book? Have you told the vendor that you’d order books from them, but you cannot afford to pay $2.30 for processing and may have to go to a different vendor who offers a similar product with free processing? You are the person purchasing items. You do have the power to request negotiated prices. There is a great deal of competition for your orders. Companies are not doing you a favor, you are purchasing funds for your students benefit. We are warrior librarians and we battle on behalf of our students.

If you order new books and get them on the shelves faster, your circulation will increase, demand will grow, and you’ll have more data about reading needs and instructional evidence. Plus you’ll be able to document what you did with your time instead of processing. Do you think administrators would like to see a comparison?

Spent one hour teaching students how to take notes and read for information (a skill on every state test) Spent one hour typing labels, covering books, and adding Marc records.
Spent one hour doing booktalks to help students learn to match their personal needs with life-long reading choices. Spent one hour typing labels, covering books, and adding Marc records.
Hourly wage for librarian Cost of processing books
Direct instruction by the only professional trained in the building Tasks that can be completed by someone not even in your building

Talk to me readers. Where do you stand? What is your budget? Do you generate additional revenue?


  1. teacherninja says:

    Ran this by my library school professor and she said, “Oh, absolutely!”