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Surviving These Economic Times

February 19th, 2009

As a history buff, I am fascinated by the cycles society and civilizations go through. For example, my grandmothers would giggle about the free ’60’s, saying the roaring ’20’s were much wilder. And apparently the gay 1890’s were pretty out there, according to Grandma Lillie.

Less fun is the downward economic cycle we are currently experiencing. During my professional life, there were the slides of the early 1980’s, the early 1990’s, and who can forget 2000-2001? Each time the economy drops, amazing pressure is put on libraries. Our revenue shrinks, yet usage and demand for our services increases. Definitely keeping library directors and managers awake at night.

Over the years, librarians have shared their ideas to successfully save and/or reduce library-related costs. In fact, during the 2003 ILA conference, Anita Driver (Jerseyville Public Library) chaired a panel, Cutting Cost in Small Libraries and Still Providing Great Service, devoted to this topic. In today’s economic , it seems appropriate to share ideas to keep costs low while allowing us to continue serving our patrons.

  • To supplement staff, work with community service groups such as the National Honor Society, high school students, or practicum students to do projects for the library.
  • The keep building expenses low, ask retired electricians to volunteer working with the library.
  • Collaborate with local greenhouse to use the library’s grounds to showcase the greenhouse. Or ask area Master Gardeners to maintain the library’s yard.
  • Stretching the collection includes purchasing used DVDs from area video stores, or purchasing a DVD/CD cleaning matching to extend the life of the CD/DVDs
  • Ask local businesses to donate prizes for programs. Some of the prizes libraries have received include certificates for hair cuts, school supplies, bikes, meals, and pizzas
  • Always use the Illinois Department of Revenue’s sales tax exemption letter when purchasing items for the library
  • Join the Illinois System Directors’ Fund for Illinois Libraries for 501(c)3 status
  • Recycle, recycle, and recycle
  • Another way to stretch the library‚Äôs training dollars? Use the free WebJunction Illinois online courses for staff training. Course topics include Dealing with Angry Patrons, Directors ASK!, Merchandising that Works, and Accompanying the Young Reader. WebJunction Illinois also has the popular Shelving with Dewey. To access these free courses, log into your WebJunction Illinois account at http://il.webjunction.org, choosing IL Course Catalog at the main page.

You might also want to read Shifting Gears: rethinking resources in tough times from the Alliance Library System.

What ideas have worked at your library? Please share your ideas by posting them in the comments section of this post.

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