Elizabeth Dellavedova, associate library director at a community college, connected with me after reading my piece “How Do Academic Libraries Spend Their Money?” In her note, Elizabeth recommended connecting directly with an academic librarian to learn more about how academic library budgets work. I appreciated her note and asked if she’d be willing to share some of her critique of my piece and her own thinking in this space.
Q: Can you share your concerns about my blog post on academic library spending?
A: To be fair, I appreciated that the title suggested a genuine desire to understand a vital aspect of library operations—spending. My concern was the simplistic assumption you put forth that librarians themselves have some agency in shifting funding from material budget to salaries. This is not the case at the community college I work for, which also happens to be a public institution. Funding for the purchase of databases, books (both electronic and physical), as well as other resources are separate from salaries and benefits for library staff, or any staff member.
Q: From your perspective in your library leadership role and what you are seeing nationally, what are the big trends, issues and challenges that those of us outside academic libraries should understand?
A: From my position, I think the big trends, issues and challenges facing academic libraries are not new: book censorship, staffing and responding to technology changes. Many community college libraries work closely with the online models of their college in response to how we reach students and how students connect with us. This has only increased in scale during and after the pandemic.
Q: For those of us who wish to be an ally of academic librarians and libraries, what can we do to support our colleagues?
A: In 1952 B. Lamar Johnson, a noted community college educator and researcher, wrote an article about how community college libraries should be viewed as opportunities. This is still true today. If someone wants to be an ally of academic librarians and libraries, seek out the opportunities! Encouraging students to visit the library is not enough. Ask about library resources. Ask for assignment consultation with a librarian. Ask about ways to encourage reading. Ask about library participation in a new learning initiative. Ask library staff about the questions students are asking. Often students will be more confide in library staff about the difficulties they are experiencing inside or outside the classroom.