Materials Selections and the Budget

Materials Selection and Budget Issues.  If libraries had all the money they ever needed, materials selection would be a much easier process.  They could just buy anything they wished.  However, as we all know this is not the case.  Librarians must make difficult decisions in which some items which would be very good for the library must be foregone in order to buy items that have more importance.  Libraries approach this dilemma in a number of ways.

In very small libraries, where only one or two people make the selections, the materials budget may just be included in a single line-item.  This money is used for all different kinds of materials, but the librarians may limit themselves to only spending a certain amount for each month or quarter of the year.  This insures that money will be available for the purchase of materials throughout the year.

In some public libraries, the materials budget is divided into a children's materials line-item and an adult materials line-item.  The adult services librarian(s) can then spend the funds for the adult materials and the children's librarian(s) can spend the money allocated for children's materials independently.  In somewhat larger libraries, the materials budget may be further broken out into different media.  So there may be a separate line item for videos, audiobooks, databases, or computer software.

In some school libraries and in many academic libraries, allocations for library materials are made for separate departments.  For example, the physics department may be given a certain amount to be spent within the fiscal year.  The department can then request that the library buy specific materials out of their allocation, or the librarians may find materials of interest, which they purchase from the department's allocation.  It is usual in such circumstances that the library also have its own funds to purchase materials that overlap departmental interest or to assure that a balanced collection is maintained.

Standing orders, subscriptions and replacement schedules.  While most materials selection is done one item at a time, there are some items that are purchased more or less automatically.  Standing orders are special kinds of orders in which the publisher is told to automatically send a new edition of a work when it is published.  They differ from subscriptions in that standing orders usually refer to items that are published only once a year or less.  Standing orders are especially useful in purchasing standard reference materials that are published annually.  For example, many libraries have standing orders to one or more general almanacs.

Subscriptions are most often used for periodicals, such as newspapers or magazines.  Rather than purchasing each issue of the periodical on the newsstand, the library buys a year's or more issues in advance.  This not only assures that they don't forget to buy an issue, but it usually is substantially cheaper.  Many libraries use periodical jobbers to purchase all or most of their magazines.  The library makes a single payment to the jobber once a year.  The jobber keeps track of all subscriptions and pays them as they come due.  The library often gets a discounted price on the periodicals, and the jobber helps the library deal with any problems with the subscriptions.

In addition to subscriptions to periodicals, libraries may also purchase subscriptions to databases containing periodicals and other information sources.  The LiLI-D database project in Idaho is such a subscription.  Libraries may also purchase subscriptions to other kinds of materials.  For example, some libraries have a subscription to large print books.  Each month the library receives a certain number of large print books produced by the publisher.  These books are sent automatically and are selected from a profile established by the library.  The profile tells the publisher the kinds of books that the library wants and the kind of books it does not want included in its subscription.

Finally, some libraries renew some large ticket items on a regular replacement schedule.  For example, many libraries plan on replacing their encyclopedia sets on a regular basis, typically every three to five years.  A library may determine that each of its encyclopedia sets should be replaced every five years.  If it has three sets of encyclopedias, it will try to replace one set every other year in the cycle and have the two intervening years when no encyclopedia is replaced.  The librarian needs to be aware of this policy and to account for it when s/he determines the amount available for the purchase of other items during each year of the cycle.


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