Library Planning Research,  Social Library Issues,  work in progress

Special Libraries: Return on Investment

Return on Investment

It’s becoming more expensive to operate a special library. According to Wordsrated, 2022 data shows that the average operating expenses per library is $765,715, an increase of more than 17% since 2014. Additionally, the cost of running libraries is becoming more focused on administrative expenses. 89% is spent on staff and other expenses, while only 10% is spent on library collections. This trend may be due to the need for libraries to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs and expectations of their communities, which requires more staff and other resources. It’s important to consider this when evaluating the value and impact of libraries on the community.

Academic Budget

Leaders in academic libraries must have the ability to respond effectively and efficiently to financial challenges such as budget cuts. These challenges may arise due to a variety of factors, including declining enrollment, shrinking endowments, rising costs, and financial mismanagement. It is important for leaders to have a well-planned budget and be able to adjust it as necessary in response to unexpected events. Additionally, they should be able to identify potential risks and take steps to mitigate them in order to protect the institution’s financial stability.

Diversify Library Services

Using just visits and materials borrowed to assess the popularity of libraries is outdated because it does not take into account how your library is evolving. How can it serve your community in new ways? Libraries today are not just places to borrow books, they also offer digital resources and a variety of programs. We have been adapting our financial service modeling to support new user needs and preferences. We need to analyze how your community makes use of its physical space to better serve the stakeholders in your community. Therefore, it is important to consider a wider range of financial metrics and factors such as ZBB when evaluating the popularity and relevance your library in the community.

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB)

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a budgeting method we have used to support libraries in transition. It is where an organization starts with a base budget of zero and must justify each program and dollar requested, rather than assuming previous year’s expenses are valid as in traditional incremental budgeting. This approach can help library organizations respond programmatically to budget reductions by forcing us to evaluate and justify all expenses, identify potential cost savings, and improve overall efficiency of library services. However, it can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Without a Library Consultant or a dedicated team, it may not be suitable for all organizations.

Transition Service Plan

Libraries that have a high percentage of line items (ex. corporate, medical or research libraries) may fit the criteria for elimination in any budget year. Many libraries have a large proportion of personnel such as librarians, support staff, or other categories of employees who may not be protected by union contracts and can be subject to reductions in force with limited justification. In our experience, managers may have more flexibility in terms of staffing and budgeting decisions, but it also means that they have to be more thoughtful and strategic in order to ensure that the library can still provide essential services to the research community. It is important for solo librarians to make leadership aware of service delivery constraints. Think about adding Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD / library consultant to the team, it is an opportunity to work closely with your leadership to develop a budget that meets the needs of the library while also being realistic about the financial realities.

CONTACT AARON COHEN ASSOCIATES, LTD to Improve Your Library and Community Services