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Dean’s Update: Evolving a Strategy to Communicate Budget Reductions

November 7, 2019

It is not a unique experience for a library director to receive a budget cut. However, the ways to communicate the consequences of implementing those cuts depend on unique local expectations and engagement among different stakeholders.

During the past few months, Drexel Libraries leadership and staff evolved multiple messages to communicate what we will be doing to address a significant cut to our total FY20 budget. We made the strategic decision to release three vacant positions and to take the remaining reduction from allocations for licensing access to information resources. This created a big challenge to determine which licensed access agreements not to renew when they expire mid-year, as well as how to communicate those changes to Libraries staff and Drexel administrators and faculty.

As librarians, we designed a single message to inform the campus community about the financial details of the budget, the challenges of working with vendors that have different pricing models, and our anticipation of how such a deep cut will affect the University’s teaching and research ambitions.

I first delivered our thoughtfully constructed message to fellow deans and academic leaders in hopes of strengthening alliances and support for the Libraries’ contributions to the University. The few questions they asked were operational: “How will librarians determine which titles to drop?” “Don’t worry about us, there aren’t any databases our faculty and students need that my College doesn’t already provide them, are there?” “Will this happen before my accreditation visit?”

Overall, the administrative reception for addressing our fiscal challenge was that all academic administrators are struggling to survive cuts to their own departments, and though there are no complaints about the Libraries, it remains a second priority.

We realized that trying to mobilize faculty protests about the Libraries' budget when they themselves are facing the impact of tough decisions within their departments around class size, teaching load, and research support is counterproductive. Accordingly, we shifted the focus of our strategy for communicating the results of the Libraries’ budget reduction away from the lemons to the making of the lemonade.

This month we will launch a Faculty Seminar Series around scholarly connections to market the Libraries’ role to provide guidance on how to navigate the always-changing information landscape and to foster a community that shares effective practices for accessing, utilizing and contributing to scholarly publications for teaching and research. There is little benefit in today’s climate to burden faculty with worries about the Libraries’ budget, but much to gain from sharing strategies for connecting to scholarship.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries