Frankenstorm Sandy wasn’t the only perfect storm scenario that was discussed at SLJ’s recent Leadership Summit in Philadelphia. School librarians from around the country were also talking about the super-powered collection development scenario we’re all facing now that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and digital resources have converged.
Arriving on the scene together—and even worse, on the tails of declining budgets for schools and libraries nationwide—these two factors present a real challenge. Fortunately, we also have some real opportunities ahead thanks to collaborative, solutions-focused thinking at the Summit. The gathering brings together school librarians, publishers, aggregators, and vendors to talk about vital issues and, more importantly, to discover the answers to today’s big questions.
A key question relating to the perfect storm of collection development is, of course, funding. Where will the money for new CC resources come from? How will we pay for new digital resources? Likely not from a new pot of money. But that doesn’t mean we can’t access funding that’s “new” to the library.
One approach is to look for existing funds within your school and district that can be redirected so that your library can purchase CC resources for the classroom. Eric Fitzgerald, Capstone Publishing’s vice president of direct sales, encouraged Summit attendees to seek out this kind of “blended funding.”
Blended funding means asking the English department to kick in some classroom or textbook money to help support that new literary criticism resource. Blended funding means pointing out to the elementary school principal that many of the new interactive ebook series are replacing science and social studies textbooks… so maybe they should be partially funded by the textbook budget. Blended funding isn’t a foolproof solution, but it’s a solid tactic. One challenge: it requires that you market your expertise in resource selection and collection development so that your value is obvious to others.
You also must, as they say, have skin in the game. Before you go asking for additional funds from departmental, textbook, or classroom budgets, make sure you’re ready to talk about the percentage of the cost that will be covered by the library budget. It’s a lot easier to sell someone on splitting the cost than it is to ask them to pay for the whole shebang.
When crafting your appeal for blended funding support, the other key component to address is efficiency. Remember, the library budget isn’t “our” budget; rather we’re centrally managing funds to enable more efficient purchases of resources to support classroom teaching and learning. Given the widespread need for new CC-aligned resources, libraries can work with publishers and aggregators to deliver wider access to content by going digital. One of our most powerful arguments is that we can save our organizations money by sharing resources and purchasing in larger consortia to reduce costs and increase access. The science teachers in a district or region aren’t set up to leverage group purchasing, but librarians are.
From my perspective as a school administrator, this is the perfect solution to a perfect storm. Everyone is desperate for content; now it’s our time to step up and deliver. We have the infrastructure, business relationships, and great publishers and aggregators to work with us. We just need to apply blended funding to make it happen for everyone.
Christopher Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org) is coordinator of the school library system of the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership.