The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0888-045X.htmBL24,1 Hedge your budget risk through service increases Terry Cottrell6 University of St Francis, Joliet, Illinios, USAReceived 29 July 2010Accepted 3 August 2010 Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe a case at the University of St Francis (USF), where common fears and, in some cases, harsh realities of library budget reductions can be strategically allayed or altogether avoided through creativity, changes in motivation and implementation of redesigns in organizational work ﬂows and tasks. Design/methodology/approach – The USF Library shifted focus away from a reactionary stance against pending budget cuts toward a proactive strategy in order to circumvent anticipated reductions in funding for library operations and staff. Findings – Changes in attitudinal and service posturing created an environment that allowed the USF to show itself as a more essential function of its university as a whole. The changes suggested in this paper add more workload to USF existing library functions, but also add more interested stakeholders. Originality/value – This paper offers insight and direction to practitioners looking to investigate the feasibility of selectively increasing workload in order to increase overall value to their institutions, resulting in budget security during harsh economic times. Keywords University libraries, Budgets, Information services Paper type Case study Introduction When recently asked by a direct report, “Why exactly are we doing this?”, the appropriate response could only be, “Because in this environment, the library’s bag-of-tricks has very few ‘No’ responses left”. Budgets are ﬂat. Budgets are negative. Budgets are in danger. A junior librarian asking a library director why a new service is being added to a variety of offerings already shared by a decreasing workforce and operations budget is one of the most valid and logical questions anyone could ask. Then again, when the numbers look bleak, are not all services and offerings subject to review, re-review, and yet more scrutiny and examination? The core of any library involves the support and delivery of intangibles that bolster tried and true revenue-producing activities. Teaching brings tuition dollars. Libraries support teaching. This is simple enough to understand. When catastrophic change in the economy tips the willingness of prospective students to pay premium prices forThe Bottom Line: Managing Library teaching and all other associated support systems, it is the support systems that areFinances weeded ﬁrst. When faced with cutting learning support activities, like library services,Vol. 24 No. 1, 2011pp. 6-12 sometimes an actual expansion in those services will divert attention away from theq Emerald Group Publishing Limited0888-045X library and toward areas that have less potential to offer mass appeal to all user typesDOI 10.1108/08880451111141999 involved in the teaching and learning experience.
The case at the University of St Francis Library Hedge yourLocated 40 miles Southwest of Chicago, the University of St Francis (USF) is a small, budget riskCatholic, private liberal arts college serving approximately 2,200 FTE students, with alibrary of over 150,000 volumes. USF is enrollment-driven. If the American economy istruly changed forever, where decisions are made from hypes and bubbles until a crisisserves as a new deﬁning reality, relying on students as consumers who will respond ina predictable fashion is no longer an appropriate business model (Etizioni, 2009). USF 7can only accommodate 350 residents on its campus. This leaves the bulk of its revenuestream to the commuter, full-time student – students who are not generally on campusenough to make adequate use of a physical library. A good library manager willattempt to balance staff load with service delivery regardless of patron type, no matterwhat the prevailing economic conditions forecast. In small, academic libraries, theculture of the campus dictates where funding is centered, and to which departmentalinitiatives funding is allotted. Only the “worthy” services survive in ﬁnancialdownturns.Strategy of centrality: the few, the proudOne strategy to counter-balance the library as a traditional overhead-cutting center ona campus is to increase the amount of services offered to users. The hypothesis issimple: providing excellent services to non-traditional users garners outside ﬁscalsupport as much as it fosters the intellectual support of students and their faculty – thetraditional users. How can libraries provide the same levels of service with fewer staff,and fewer staff ﬁnancial incentives? Before considering this, consider the opposite:library directors are caught in a particularly rough bind bearing the brunt of budgetcuts from their supervisors at the top, and pressure from their subordinates below.Library survival is a popular, macro-level question of strategy in this scenario, butthere is a more important concern. Recession or no recession, the desire for research ona university campus will remain. As a result of this, how library staff culture cancontinue to stay cohesive and effective is the more seminal discussion for libraryleaders needing to preserve the character of their internal staff structure, whileproviding research services with much less funding. Reductions in staff and servicesare not always a certainty. Without a strategy, the library director is sunk. In a recent Harvard Business Reviewarticle, Michael Jacobides says, “In an age when nothing is constant, strategy should bedeﬁned by narrative – plots, subplots, and characters – rather than by maps, graphs,and numbers” (Jacobides, 2010, p. 76). The strategy of the USF library is to provide amultitude of services that are so effective and so relied upon that users feel they areessential, and cannot be done without. Starting with the fact that it is the library thatsees more students per day than most other university departments gives a mandatefrom which libraries may demand budget stability. It must never be forgotten toremind and reinforce that the library is commonly also in one centralized location. Thisis a selling point from which negotiations over dollars should start. Because libraries produce no hard products, no grades, no credits, and notranscripts, they are always already married to the selling of their worth throughintangibles. Libraries have gate counts, usage statistics, and other trafﬁc numbers tosupport their claims. More importantly, however, libraries have the pulse of the users
BL on and off campus, and serve as a heart in a very true sense. Eschewing the erroneous24,1 assumption that a campus is a metaphor for the human body, and therefore risking a perception of arrogance from peers on campus, it is wiser to have a more robust approach. Persuading a campus to believe they are less reliant on one core service and truly more reliant on three or ﬁve increases a library’s chances of being one of the few. The argument here is that almost any university library can convince, win, and retain a8 priority space within a small niche of core services that is only a few deep. It is a mistake to sell a library as the heart of a university versus selling the idea that a university always has more than one heart, and that the library is certainly one. This belief, through a willingness to increase services, will turn ideas of budget cuts away toward services which are merely appendages to a university’s operations. Quick tip Arguing that the university has only three, four or ﬁve hearts (as opposed to the traditional arguments that the library is the only one) will bring allies from the other most powerful areas of the organization. Services added that are now essential One of the best things a library can do is to view its university from the basis of resources (Pearce and Robinson, 2009). With this in mind, the USF library has found that focusing on adding services it could provide that were both low cost yet high touch would be services that make both the ﬁscally prudent and the resource-oblivious smile. There are four different audiences that any library must satisfy; these are shown in Figure 1. Many articles on library management will laud the difﬁculties and challenges in working with the last on the aforementioned list – the root of the Framework. Articles regarding morality and communication, transactional and transformational leadership, charismatic management and a whole host of other popular personnel strategies are in no short supply (Sutton, 2005). The focus, however, should be clear: Research Services and Upper Management are the focal point that will help solidify budget preservationFigure 1.Framework of academiclibrary stakeholders
during ﬁscal crises – the top of the Framework. The services that serve the upper Hedge yourportion, when articulated correctly to the lower portion, will indeed serve to avoid any budget riskand all budget assaults. Over the months of the most signiﬁcant downtown in the US economy since theGreat Depression, the USF library has increased its service offerings, therebypositively affecting its entire Framework of Stakeholders. The library made the choiceto offer: 9 . test proctoring for individual students; . programming for senior citizens; . laminating services; . test proctoring for students of other colleges; . individualized tenure consulting and research for full-time faculty; and . 24-hour text reference service.A two-pronged approach: how the services work to facilitate importance tobudget prioritiesQuick tipAny and all service additions and changes during ﬁscal hardship must be rememberedunder the vein that all organizational change is: . centered on providing superior service; . not reliant on a single magic formula; . dependent on thoughtful analysis by skilled budget managers; and . doomed to fail without staff buy-in (Kirk, 2008).Table I shows the impact on both the upper-end and the lower-end of the Framework ofAcademic Library Stakeholders through an expanse of services. Each of the new services provided necessarily impact a library staff alreadystretched thin. Some staff and external users cannot see the past, the fact that thelibrary would spend one dollar on services that are (with the exception of tenureresearch) non-ofﬁcial research business. The most important issue to consider is thatall of this non-ofﬁcial research business has been fun, serves a positive purpose to thebusiness of the university, and ultimately makes it difﬁcult to cut any aspect of libraryoperations come what may from the external economic climate. The perceived negativeimpacts shown in Table I become positives toward the bottom line, giving the library abroader ﬁnancial vision of the future.Quick tipNon-traditional services are saving the budget dollars meant for traditional services.Non-student, non-faculty patrons are the chief direct beneﬁciaries in many cases hereas they receive more services under this paradigm. The indirect beneﬁciaries of thisradical idea, however, are the students, faculty, staff and entire library budget as awhole.
BL 10 24,1 services Table I. Library Stakeholders and lower ends of the through an expanse of Framework of Academic Impact on both the upper Positive impact on core Perceived negative impact Positive impact on core Perceived negative impactCurrently under way research services users on internal staff Under consideration research services users on internal staffTest proctoring for Faculty and students have Public services staff must DVD/CD disk repair Same as laminating services Same as laminatingindividual students the convenience of track and account for services. Cost of machine is scheduling ﬂex-times for individual requests from high testing faculty (web-based) for student testing. Staff must ensure quality control for students taking testsProgramming for Alumni of current students Program is limited in scope, Institutional repository Single location for all Requires technical servicessenior citizens are the prime users of this but involves faculty and a scholarly production on areas with commonly tight service. Grandparents of committee of non-library campus. Increases library and trusted procedures to future students are involved personnel. Work is dependence by creators of volunteer to organize new as well distributed content. Centers library as and essential digital natural location for materials produced in-house publications and historic as opposed to those artifacts acquired from outside (Walters, 2007)Laminating services Library is sole provider of Maintenance of machine Co-teaching/embedding Increases information May require contract this service on campus. and ordering of supplies information literacy awareness of all students. renegotiation, job Revenue is generated for the have additional task training within courses Increases visibility of restructuring and increase library through this service library as core service in activity outside provider traditional building spacesTest proctoring for Transfer students are Same as proctoring forstudents of other primary users. Future internal constituentscolleges students familiarize with campusIndividualized tenure Faculty receive virtual Must be set up, maintainedconsulting and “hands-off” automated and performed by a full-research research assistance through time librarian. May require RSS feeds of articles and staff redesign other resources24-hour texting Opens services to all users This opens staff to servingservice throughout the day. Popular non-academic and non-USF with nomadic users constituents
From spark to results: attitudes at the top Hedge yourBy offering unintended services, the USF library has actually experienced budget budget riskincreases during ﬁscal hardships, and has avoided round after round of cuts. Now, thelibrary is experimenting with the same concept by offering services to area Catholichigh schools to gain more support from outside members of its greater regionalnetwork. The idea is that if even more people in the larger community see the USFlibrary as a community resource, then the stakeholders at the top of the Framework 11will look elsewhere for funding cuts. Furthermore, pressures for enrollment-driveninstitutions are magniﬁed by competition from competing similar systems (Johnstone,2009). In this case, private colleges and private high schools are often competing for thesame dollar. With funds being the prime mover, most importantly, what has been doneat the USF Library has not made traditional services subservient to new additions. It isthrough strategic thinking, positive attitude, and reacting counter-intuitively aboutrecessions that win-win solutions are born with minimal outlay of staff time anddollars. Large schemes, speeches, projects, or complicated partnerships will likely beunsustainable and unpopular over time when money is tight (Guskin and Marcy, 2003).Quick tipThrough service increases, and superior performance, a preference in uppermanagement to look to the library as a cost-cutting center has been assuaged threeyears in a row.ConclusionThere are a wide variety of issues to consider when looking at budget cuts duringharsh and unpredictable economic times. A solid vision of what is essential to overalloperations, combined with a boldness to look at and develop staff that can grasp theconﬁdence to take risks, will pay immense social capital when the time comes to hedgethrough expansion. Recommending more services is counterintuitive to a staff alreadycold to the idea that expansion is the true path to essentiality in the minds of users andupper-level managers alike. Prepping and training staff through example andreinforcement will cause a warming to occur that will facilitate high performancedespite the fear of poor economics. With careful implementation, a very satisﬁednon-traditional user base can bear a surprisingly high community-level inﬂuence onthose who hold the keys to small campus budgets. The fact remains that an increase insatisﬁed patrons, of any type, is good for all libraries.ReferencesEtizioni, A. (2009), “Spent”, New Republic, Vol. 240 No. 10, pp. 20-3.Guskin, A.E. and Marcy, M.B. (2003), “Dealing with the future now: principles for creating a vital campus in a climate of restricted resources”, Change, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 10-21.Jacobides, M. (2010), “Strategy tools for a shifting landscape”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 88 No. 1, pp. 76-84.Johnstone, D.B. (2009), “An international perspective on the fragility of higher education institutions and systems”, in Martin, J. and Samuels, J.E. & Associates (Eds), Turnaround, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, pp. 31-48.
BL Kirk, T. (2008), “The merged organization: confronting the service overlap between libraries and computer centers”, Library Issues, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 1-4.24,1 Pearce, J.A. and Robinson, R.B. (2009), Formulation, Implementation, and Control of Competitive Strategy, 11th ed., McGraw-Hill, Boston, MA. Sutton, L. (2005), “Application of transformational leadership in an academic library”, MLA Forum, Vol. 4 No. 1.12 Walters, T.O. (2007), “Reinventing the library – how repositories are causing librarians to rethink their professional roles”, Portal: Libraries and the Academy, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 213-25. Corresponding author Terry Cottrell can be contacted at: email@example.com To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints