Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Disturbingly Weak: The Current State of Financial Management Education in Library and Information Science Curricula

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Disturbingly Weak: The Current State of Financial Management Education in Library and Information Science Curricula

Article excerpt

Introduction and Problem Statement

Financial literacy is currently a "hot" topic both in academic libraries and in public libraries. The 2014 Association of College and Research Libraries President, Trevor A. Dawes, claimed financial literacy as his presidential initiative (Dawes, 2013). Both the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter and ALA Annual meetings had programs devoted to it (ACRL, n.d.). The Public Library Association has also embraced the importance of financial literacy insofar as they have provided governmental financial literacy links to both librarians and to their users (PLA, n.d.). This emphasis is well placed, considering the apparently low level of personal financial literacy in the United States (Lusardi, 2009; Lusardi & Mitchell, 2011 ).1 All this attention raised several questions for the authors. First, to what extent are library and information science schools providing courses in financial management for their graduates? Second, what is the quality and quantity of library financial management textbooks available for current librarians and librarians in training? Third, to what extent are there sufficient library continuing education venues available in North America to provide this training? Fourth and finally, does any evidence exist to show that librarians with library financial management responsibilities are well-trained enough to manage library finances competently and effectively? After all, if North American library professionals are intent on ensuring that their patrons are financially literate, they themselves certainly should be so, too.

All of these are legitimate research questions that deserve investigation. This paper will focus on the first question, relating to the library and information science (LIS) curricula in English-speaking ALA accredited LIS schools in North America. We chose to investigate this first question for several reasons. First of all, no one has yet carried out a comprehensive survey of this part of the LIS curricula. Second, given current pressures on financial resources for libraries in all sectors, it appears to us that there is in fact an increasing need for library managers at all levels to be knowledgeable about financial management. Frequent articles in the library press reveal that more accountability for the financial condition of libraries is being demanded, especially for public libraries. That is, taxpayers and other stakeholders seem no longer content to fund libraries as a public good without question. Libraries are being asked to prove their economic value to the community served and to demonstrate that the financial resources available to them are being managed responsibly and in accordance with the appropriate standards and best practices. Such views may reflect the monetization of former cultural goods, leading to the notion that everything has a dollar value (Sandel, 2012) and that in order to receive tax funds or tuition money, libraries must prove their worth to funding authorities. Financially knowledgeable leaders are in a stronger position to work with their supervisors and boards, to make stronger cases for increased or steady financing, to develop strategic approaches to financial matters, and to lead and educate their employees than are unknowledgeable leaders. Library managers need to be well grounded in a comprehensive array of financial management principles.

In addition, embezzlement in libraries no longer seems to be an isolated phenomenon. Reports of embezzlement and other financial malfeasance undermine public trust in the institution and the acts themselves threaten its future. Although such criminal acts do not occur often and the amounts stolen are modest compared to other white-collar crimes, Snyder (2006, p. vi) notes that "fraud and embezzlement have a long history in the profession of librarianship." He goes on to cite occurrences in the past including that of Klas Linderfelt, who was director of the Milwaukee Public Library and president of the American Library Association from 1891 to 1892. …

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