Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rethinking the Reference Collection...On a Budget

Budgets are tight. Nothing can be done about it. Funding sources are being cut off; grant committees are being stingy with their money; trustees want each and every thing itemized; money from the state/university/federal government/city/whatever is decreasing; donors are limited; endowments cut completely. Less money is coming into the library no matter your funding source(s). Yet the price of books and e-resources continues to increase. How is a librarian supposed to create a fabulous reference collection on such a limited budget?

Points of Reference, Booklist's reference blog, posted this same question yesterday. But how are we supposed to handle the problem? I'm not a librarian yet, but I do have some idea of how to keep up collection development in such poor economic times. Something we are doing at Rogers is looking through our print reference sources (big encyclopedias, directories, indexes, etc) and comparing them to what is available in the databases. Sometimes there is overlap without us really noticing it. So now we are going through it way more carefully.

A lot of libraries are concerned with whether or not they are going to be able to afford new databases or ebook packages. A good solution might be to participate in a consortium with other libraries so you can share the cost and the use of the resources. Contact colleagues and try to work out a solution and budget that works for everyone. This is also an excellent time to reevaluate what is really being used. Cancel subscriptions to databases that aren't getting used enough to justify the costs. Stop ordering that print source that no one really uses. Work with your staff/students/volunteers to improve usage of available resources. Maybe no one uses a certain database because they don't know how to use it. Educate your staff and your patrons on the available resources (especially the ones you pay for!!) of your library.

Lastly, utilize the free resources. Advertise via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs; all free advertising. This could cut down on paper advertising, thus increasing your budget in other areas. Discover what free databases are out there (I find new ones everyday!) with excellent information. Teach staff and patrons how to use Google and all its free services (books, images, scholar, etc) to improve the quality of your reference service without spending any money.

What are you doing to rethink the reference collection on a budget? Did I miss anything? What else could librarians be doing to save money?

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