What we desire can say a lot about us. It follows that examining the wish lists of almost 300 school librarians should provide us with some insight into current needs and trends within the profession. We asked the question, "If you had an extra $2,000 for your library, how would you spend it?"
We wanted to get the true picture of what items librarians would focus on if their funding was increased; thus, the percentages that follow well exceed 100% because some respondents chose more than one option. Almost across the board, the answer came back rather resoundingly. Over 50% of respondents, if they had more money, would buy more books. This is true for elementary, middle, and high school librarians. The next most common answer was furniture, with 34% of respondents. Finally, 26% of respondents included low-tech makerspace supplies on their short list.
The greatest, shared common (single) desire was to buy more books. This aligns perfectly with last month's survey, in which school librarians showed their strong commitment to staying up on new books over their summer break. Good librarians will always be aware of new, quality literature they want to buy, and there will always be more than most budgets will allow.
The priority placed on furniture suggests that school librarians are also eager to make changes to their space. Most of us don't have a full remodel on the horizon, but affordable and creative options are available that can increase flexibility and give a more modern look. As the activities within the library adapt to be future ready and meet the needs of students, even small physical additions can help generate interest and use in the space while better reflecting and supporting the innovation and functions happening within the walls of the library.
Another common desire was for low-tech making supplies. This category is unique in that these supplies are more easily procured outside of regular budget limitations. For the 26% of respondents wishing they had more funding to secure making supplies, there may be options you haven't considered. For example, at the start of school or at back-to-school activities, submit or publicize a wish list of items you are looking for. The beauty of making supplies is that these can come from recycled items (e.g., toilet paper tubes and plastic tubs), unused craft supplies, or surplus materials community members may be looking to re-home. Lots of making projects can be tweaked to allow for a variation of materials. Even the supplies that need to be purchased new (i.e. tape, glue, batteries) are relatively inexpensive. When needs like these are made known, stakeholders are given a great opportunity to help the library in a manageable way.
Those three answers, books, furniture, and making supplies, dominated the survey responses. Each fills a very different need, but there is one obvious commonality: the greatest unfilled desires in school libraries right now aren't necessarily tech tools. At least, not one single tech tool. Looking at the results from a slightly different perspective, however, yields a another view. Many of the choice options listed on the survey were for some kind of physical device (i.e. tablets, VR headsets, video production equipment, drones, 3D printers, etc.). If we consider these as one larger group, then "tech tools" emerges at the top of the list. Where just over half of respondents demonstrated a desire for more books, over 70% of respondents selected some kind of device for the top of their wish list. This indicates that not all schools may be focusing on the same technology, but tech tools are highly coveted items, and current budgets are not fully meeting the demand.
Now that we've got you thinking about what you'd do with $2000, it's time to create a plan to go out and get it! Check out the articles in this issue for ideas on securing funding. Don't miss Judy Deichman's advice for stretching your book budget; Carolyn Vibbert's tips for getting started with grant writing; and Heather Moorefield-Lang's list of resources to help you find funding online.
A goal of the One-Question Survey is not only to collect and share data in this single moment of time, but also to encourage and support continuous conversations and discussions on topics that are important to school librarians. You can read James Allen's take on these survey results and join the discussion on our Community page. Watch for follow-up posts on the Community page and for upcoming Twitter chats on these topics.
Recommended Reading from SLC:
Pat Franklin and Claire Gatrell Stephens. "Gaining Skills to Write Winning Grants."
Brooke M. Davis "Running a Library on a Shoestring Budget."
Marge Cox "10 Tips for Budgeting."