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Preparing your 2020 school library budget proposal

August 28th, 2019 By Miriam Tuohy

In May, I wrote about buying books for your school library. That post included some suggestions for those who don’t have enough funding to buy the books they need.

In this post, we’re going back to basics to look at how budgets are decided, how to determine what funding you need, and how to advocate for an amount that supports your readers’ and learners’ needs.

Calculator on desk with paper

Back to basics on budgets

Around now, schools will start the budgeting process for the coming school year. Draft budgets are usually adopted by the Board of Trustees in term 4 and finalised in term 1 of the new year.

For most schools, collection development funding comes from the Ministry of Education’s operations grant. Many more schools — particularly primary and intermediate — rely on the support of their school community for funding as well, as this table from the 2018 report School libraries and school library services in New Zealand Aotearoa shows.

Table showing collection development funding sources
Percentage of responding schools who receive funding from various sources

The Ministry of Education’s Financial Information for Schools Handbook 2018 (section 3.2) has guidelines and advice about budgeting. This point from the handbook stands out for me — and it’s crucial to library budgeting just as it is for the school’s overall budget:

It is important not to just use the last year’s final figures and adjust for inflation etc to create your budget. Each year needs to be treated independently and a budget should be based on identified annual priorities, known figures and expected outcomes for the year ahead.

This means that, firstly, you must know your school’s priorities and goals for the coming years. Then you can look closely at how the library — and your collection as part of that — will support those priorities and goals. And finally, you’ll need to request funding that will enable the library to achieve these goals. This is 'needs-based' budgeting.

What about lump-sum allocations?

We think needs-based budgeting is the best way of tying your library funding to achieving better outcomes for students. In practice, though, school libraries are often given a lump sum to cover all collection development, as well as processing and display materials, printing and copying costs, and — in some schools — software licences and library staff professional development too. A lump sum like this is often calculated using a dollar amount per student.

No matter which method your school uses to decide your library budget, one fundamental issue remains: is it enough to provide the level of support you want for your learners and readers?

School library budget

3 questions to answer when preparing your budget proposal

1. What are your school’s priorities and goals?

Your school’s charter and strategic goals include high-level statements about:

  • your school curriculum and support for priority learners
  • acknowledging and reflecting cultural diversity and the unique position of Māori in particular
  • community involvement and engagement
  • supporting social and emotional learning, and wellbeing.

The school's annual plan has more detail about how these will be achieved.

2. How will the library support those priorities and goals?

Look closely at the actions listed in your school’s plans for the coming year and think about how the library might support them. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Your charter might say that the school aims to provide a rich, inquiry-based curriculum with teaching and learning programmes that are innovative, or that respond to students’ changing needs — including differentiated, or targeted, support for specific needs.
    • Can you support this by buying new resources throughout the year as inquiry learning takes shape, or as student needs become known?
  • A school goal may be to implement the Digital Technologies | Hangarau Matihiko curriculum school-wide in 2020.
    • Can the library support this with books and other resources? Is there equipment the library could provide, or devices for students to borrow, to support the new curriculum?

3. What funding will you need?

Check whether your budget is keeping pace with expected costs.

Library management

Take a look at the costs of providing library services that support reading and learning to see whether your funding needs to increase to keep up, or whether you might be able to shift funding from one area to support another. For example:

  • Could you reduce the amount of book covering you do — and therefore the amount spent on materials — so you can spend more on collection development?
  • Can you reduce printing costs by going paperless as much as possible, for example, sending overdue notices by email rather than printed slips?

Changes like these are better for the environment too, not just your bottom line!

Buying books

The average cost of the top twelve children’s paperbacks sold through a leading retailer, with a 20% discount (common for schools), is about $13.40 each. Non-fiction books will likely cost you more.

Think about any changes you need to make so that your collection has enough relevant and appealing material to support reading and learning across the curriculum.

Assessing your school library collection

Estimate the cost of buying new titles and replacing old ones that are out-of-date or in poor condition. If there’s a short-fall, you have an opportunity to advocate for more.

In 2018, our national survey of school libraries found that collection development funding varied from one school type to another, as this chart shows:

Chart showing collection development funding budget by school type
Average collection development budget per student, and range of responses

If you’d like more information about collection development funding to include in a budget request, check the 2018 report or get in touch with me.

Other ongoing costs

What else might your library do to support the school’s goals and priorities? For example:

  • If you’d like to set up a maker-space, what equipment will you need?
  • Does the licence fee for your Integrated Library System need to be included in your library budget?

One-off costs

For some items, you may need to make a separate one-off request. For example:

  • If you’d like to improve signage in your library so it’s easier for people to find what they need, how much will that cost?
  • If you want to offer devices such as Chromebooks, your request should be done in consultation with your IT specialist staff.
  • If you’d like to replace bulky furniture with flip tables for more flexible use of the library space, talk to your school’s property manager about funding for this first.

Presenting a needs-based budget proposal

Your school may have forms and a standard process for gathering budget information from staff, and if so, you’ll need to use those.

It's always a good idea to prepare enough supporting information and be able to share a compelling message to back up your proposal. Try to make time to talk with the school’s management team about your budget proposal, so you can share your message with passion and commitment. 

Advocating for your school library

One final thing to note

My earlier post Buying books for your school library included information about buying books online from suppliers overseas. Regulations affecting these purchases are set to change and GST will be payable on low-value imported goods from 1 December 2019

If you regularly buy books from international suppliers online, you'll need to be aware of the new tax policy. In particular, take care to ensure invoices comply with the regulations so that your school can claim a GST refund for these purchases. If you're not sure, talk with your school's finance manager and keep an eye out for September's Tax Information Bulletin for more information.

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