Magazine article American Libraries

Make Friends with Lee Iacocca, and Other Surefire Strategies for Boosting Your Budget

Magazine article American Libraries

Make Friends with Lee Iacocca, and Other Surefire Strategies for Boosting Your Budget

Article excerpt

Libraries compete for the finite resources of a parent institution. A veteran campaigner in the funding wars offers "almost foolproof" advice on getting your share

Librarians and libraries are always asked to do too much with too little, so the search for outside funding, through grants, gifts, and fundraisers, is a constant of library life.

Realistic librarians, however, accept that libraries are not and should not be the number-one funding priority of their parent institution. Libraries are not the primary reason for the existence of academic institutions, schools, or corporations. Administrators responsible for resource allocation know that students, faculty, profits, and productive, satisfied employees, among other things. come first.

Even so, organizational Darwinism means that realistic and effective libraries develop strategies for convincing parent institutions to increase the library's budget. As a student of such strategies, I offer the following, which are almost foolproof:

Cave-ins and coattails

* Experience a major disaster - there's nothing like a fire, flood, or roof cave-in to get attention and an infusion of special funding. Improved physical facilities and better preventative maintenance should result from this strategy (or rather Act of God - arson is not recommended).

* More constructively - receive a significant grant that requires matching funds. It's very difficult to turn down money. When one dollar of added funding translate into two, prospects brighten considerably.

* Associate your needs with a more attractive or pressing cause - ride the coattails of a more influential constituency (e.g., the establishment of a cultural complex, special library support for an important research project, or a major community project to combat crime, illiteracy, or unemployment).

* Hit 'em where it hurts - allow certain things in the library to deteriorate to intolerable levels. (Of course, caution is in order here; this could cost you your job - but it would achieve the goal.

We sometimes make the mistake of preserving all our services at the expense of providing minimally adequate working conditions for staff. In fact, "outsider" are not terribly concerned by a staff lacking decent furniture, equipment, or adequate supplies, and certainly not by inadequate travel funds and noncompetitive salaries. They are about collections and operating hours. When libraries cut hours and close branches, constituents pressure resource allocators for added funding - something that virtually never happens if we just need decent salaries or microcomputers for staff. That's our problem. Shorter hours become their problem. Choose your cuts with care.

* Develop a personal friendship with Lee Iacocca. When Lee drops by the library to talk with you and see how things are going, funders will quickly view the library from a different perspective. Is the facility an embarrassment? Is he interested in the collections? What can we do for him (or the library) to make institutions his favorite philanthropy?

* Building in the Iacocca strategy, have a very influential person serve as a squeaky wheel. The library shouldn't be the lone voice pleading for added funding, which is seen frequently as pleading from self-interest. Better to have important library users speak on your behalf.

* Base your appeal on your funders' priorities (or perhaps their self-interest). Help them achieve their goals and make them look good.

* Be in the right place at the right time.

The goodness fallacy

There are other strategies which frequently don't work, unless accompanied by one of the almost foolproof techniques we've already discussed. Let's look at some.

Doing a really good job, knocking ourselves out, coping with impossible conditions, and suffering in silence simply tells your funders that all's well in the library. …

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