Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Downside of Being a School Librarian


I have spent the last 30 years working in public schools in Louisiana. I have to say, except when I taught in a classroom that was federally funded, that I never had the funding that I needed to run my program. When I became a librarian in 1991, I knew immediately that the budget from the district and the state would not be enough to maintain and improve the collection. There were some block grants and some school money that helped in the early years, but I knew from the first time that I stepped into a library that I would have to hold fundraisers if I wanted to provide my students with a vibrant program. You can't run a library on nothing though I wish that you could. 

When I arrived at PFTSTA eight years ago, the district gave me a budget to match our student body of 175 students. I was starting a library from scratch at a new school. I needed funding. The principal, at the time, had received grant monies to outfit the school, and luckily, she was generous with the library. You may think that $40,000 is a lot of money, but when a library has nothing, this money does not go far. I began to write grants and found funding to build a collection. This was just after Hurricane Katrina, and there was money flowing into southern Louisiana. Most of those sources now require schools to show high poverty with 85% or higher free or reduced lunch. My students are not wealthy, but our percentage is much lower than that making us ineligible for many grants. 


Gearing the middle school up for the library fundraiser
  
Running a fundraiser is one way that I ask for support from our community and raise money to stock the shelves and have money for programming. This was the first year that we held a book fair because we didn't have the space until we moved into our new facility. I was happy with the results of the fair, but our profit of $1000 does not go far when buying books or electronic resources. On November 10th we kicked off the fundraiser for the middle school students. We work with Great American Opportunities (GA) and have done so for many years. A few years ago the sales rep asked if I wanted to try a special program with GA. It is kind of crazy, but we earn a profit of 50%, so it is well worth it. The students sell out of a catalog that changes each year. Family, friends and neighbors place orders in the catalog, and I have to submit the orders before the Thanksgiving holidays. The items are not shipped until early February. The students do not collect the money until the items arrive at school. It is a long wait from ordering in November and receiving the items three months later, and sometimes, people forget what they ordered. Since I always make a tidy profit, this fundraiser is a necessary evil. I really hate to ask students to sell for me. It just doesn't feel right, but without fundraisers, there would not be enough money to keep the library up to date. 

I usually love my job, but this is one aspect that I wish would go away. I wish that every library could have the funding needed to provide quality services to our students. High quality libraries are libraries that students want to use because they are attractive, have new books, have resources needed for class assignments and offer programs that make the library a fun and vibrant place to visit. I talked to a colleague who recently went to work at a private school. There are two libraries in the school with one budget but that budget of $35,000 a year is extremely sweet. My total budget in a good year is about $4000. Before you say that is crazy for a school serving 6th-12th grades, I need to tell you that the district pays for a couple of databases (Gale and World Book) and the library management software (Destiny). The school pays for another database (Britannica Online) and  a couple of other electronic resources including Turnitin, Easybib and Britannica Image Quest. If my budget had to fund those wonderful resources, I don't know how we would make it. 

I know that other libraries have fewer resources than we do, but I also know that there are many libraries with lots more resources. Though fundraisers are not something I enjoy, I do what I think is necessary. In my dreams I imagine a library with a large budget, but for now, I am staying here and using my problem solving skills to figure out how to buy the latest reads for my students who never want their favorite series to end. 

3 comments:

  1. I get about ten dollars per student each year, for about 700 students. This supplies most of our needs, but I also get a fair number of books for review, or from donations. I feel VERY fortunate that if I manage things well, I don't have to fundraise. It sounds like you have a good handle on it, even though it's not fun. Colleges are where they have crazy large budgets, although for what they need to buy, I'm sure it is never enough!

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    1. The budget that is given to me is about $6/child. Right now we have 450 students which is 100 students more than last year, but my budget is based on last year's numbers. It makes it hard to keep up with what we need in the library.

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